Where will Cameron Erving play next season?

Some analysts were bemused when the Browns elected to choose Cameron Erving with the 19th pick of the draft. Erving whose play improved considerably when he moved from left tackle to centre was for some a strange choice when the two positions that he has played have two ProBowlers there in Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. While some believe that the Browns have him in case Mack decides to leave at the end of the season when his player option comes up, I think that the drafted the player they felt would be of most value to them. In all likelihood, if Erving leaves training camp a starter it will be on the right hand side of the line. Thomas, Bitonio and Mack are here to stay on the left but could unseat either John Greco or Mitchell Schwartz on the right.
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Greco who was the better of the two players before being asked to move to centre after Alex Mack went down. The big issue for Greco in keeping his job could be his age and the bias that Erving will get as this front office has to be invested in Cameron Erving after selecting him in the first round.
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Mitchell Schwartz blocks JJ Watt of the Houston Texans

As for Mitchell Schwartz he has had two up and down seasons but the coaches seem to have a lot more faith in him than the fans do. The Browns may opt for a very different look and move Schwartz inside to right guard and play Erving.

The Browns have also floated the possibility of Michael Bowie competing for the starting job after he was stashed on the injury reserve last season. Even if Erving doesn’t win the job he still guaranteed to see plenty of action both in goal line and short distance. It should be a pretty interesting training camp battle to decide who will starting next season.

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Building like a Brown

When I looked back at who the Browns drafted in the first three rounds, I couldn’t help but think that the Browns are trying to build a true blue collar team. Last year Mike Pettine’s mantra was to “play like a Brown” and Ray Farmer seems to building around that with hardnosed selections. Last year’s first round was a flashy one with Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel but this year was blue collar as they come with Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving. The Browns continued that vein in day two with OLB Nate Orchard, RB Duke Johnson and DL Xavier Cooper. While the “Draftniks” cried out for the Browns to pick a wide receiver, Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine chose to go to smart and unsexy picks that will have a bigger impact on how many games the Browns will win next year. It should have been no surprise really with Ray Farmer’s views about wide receivers and their value.

“I know everyone says I’m stubborn or I’m going to be obstinate about this wide receiver position, but I just think that at the end of the day an offensive line affects every single play of the game,” he said. “A wide receiver may touch the ball 10 times if he’s having a great day, so I just like the idea of ‘let’s get the guys that affect the game all the time, and let’s try and get those guys and make a difference for our football team.’ ”

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Pettine who was defensive coordinator on Rex Ryan’s Jets teams who went to two consecutive AFC Championship games with Mark Sanchez at quarterback knows that you don’t need an elite quarterback to succeed and win games. Those Jets teams that Pettine was part of were a mix of a bruising run game and an elite defence that is not too dissimilar to last year’s Seahawks. Last season, the Browns made strides but were held back by the league’s worst run defence. Gone are Ahytba Rubin and Jabaal Sheard in free agency, neither of whom really suited Pettine’s 3-4 defence and replaced with the space gobbling Danny Shelton at nose tackle, Randy Starks and Xavier Cooper at end and Nate Orchard at outside linebacker. Next season the Browns will have the depth they craved so badly last season especially upfront and this influx of talent gives the coach Pettine more freedom to call those exotic that he loves. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that will have a top 10 defence next year.

The other place that the Browns really struggled last season was offensive line depth after Alex Mack went down with a broken leg. That coupled with the fact that Mack has player option at the end of this season, made finding a potential replacement at centre a priority. Farmer responded to this by going out and grabbing Cameron Erving from Florida State who has played at both left tackle and centre for the Seminoles in his senior season. Erving obviously won’t be starting at either position this season with the Browns having All Pros at both positions but could potentially start at right guard or right tackle this season or sit this season as he acclimatises to the NFL.
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But what is the use in having all that beef up front of you don’t have an elite running back to take advantage of it? That’s where Duke Johnson comes in. Johnson who played his college ball at the U will be an immediate upgrade catching the ball out of the backfield and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reckons he should be at the top of the depth chart straight away ahead of Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West. Johnson is Miami’s all time leader in rushing ahead of former NFL players such as Frank Gore, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee. Johnson was terrific value in the third round considering many had an early second round grade on him. Having three running backs capable of pounding the rock will be a key part of establishing this new blue collar team.

Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine have made it clear the direction they want this team to go and hopefully continue to draft quality players in the later rounds.

Other notes

The Browns seem to have learned from last year’s immature rookies and are placing an emphasis on drafting team captains with Danny Shelton, Cameron Erving and Nate Orchard all being team captains in college.

The most encouraging sign for this draft, that the main two decision-makers were Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer, not Jimmy Haslam and a homeless guy.

Reggie picks the NFL draft

In the lead up to the draft, you’ll find hundreds of mock draft online from various people from those with inside sources to those who do it as a hobby. For a change, I decided to get my dog to the picking by putting sheets of paper with players names on them. Obviously I couldn’t let my dog have 32 treats for a full first round so instead I let him do the first six picks instead. Click on the video below to see the results.

P.S. For those who are interested Reggie is a Kerry Blue, a dog native to Ireland.

Farmer suspended but Browns avoid losing draft pick

The NFL have finally finished it’s investigation into Ray Farmer and Textgate and handed down the punishment yesterday. NFL VP of Operations Troy Vincent announced the penalties yesterday along with the Falcon’s punishment for pumping fake noise into the Georgia dome. Here is the main part of Vincent’s statement regarding Textgate.

“The use of a cell phone on multiple occasions during games in 2014 by Cleveland Browns General Manager Ray Farmer was a violation of NFL rules that prohibit certain uses of electronic devices during games,” Vincent said. “Based on these violations, the Browns have been fined $250,000 and Ray Farmer will be suspended without pay for the first four regular-season games of the 2015 season. The suspension will start on midnight of the Sunday preceding the Browns’ first regular-season game and will end immediately after the Browns’ fourth regular-season game. During the period of the suspension, Farmer cannot be involved in any club matters and is prohibited from being at the Browns’ offices, practice facility, or at Browns games.”

While having Farmer suspended at all is disappointing and reflects badly on the Browns and their front office, it really isn’t that harsh of a penalty. By the first game the rosters will have been finalized and beyond looking for bargains on the waiver wire and exploring possible trades, there isn’t a whole lot Farmer will miss. Even when he does return the trade deadline won’t have passed. Had the Browns been fined a draft pick it could have been a lot worse with how important this draft could be for the Browns with them looking to build on last year’s 7-9 record and make a push to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

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GM Ray Farmer will be suspended for four games for his role in Textgate

As for the $250,000 fine it really is on peanuts to owner Jimmy Haslam when you consider that he bought the Browns for $1.05 billion or that he had no problem being able to pay a $76 million tax settlement last year. The NFL also cleared Haslam or any other front office figure from responsibility in Textgate, showing it was clearly that it was Farmer acting on his own.

Sorting through the free agency madness: part one-Trades

Every March, we get to see a certain amount of craziness in the first wave with certain players getting ridiculous regrettable contracts, players getting cut to save cap space and some players slipping under the radar and becoming steals. Yet it not that often that we see trades, let alone blockbuster ones at this time of year with teams being more interested in free agency and the upcoming draft than in exploring trades. Then from last Tuesday, everything changed when Chip Kelly started to go crazy and traded 2 time All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy for Bills LB Kiko Alonso. Then we saw more craziness as the Brandon Marshall was traded to the Jets who also cut Percy Harvin. Now I’m going to try and sort through the madness and for the simplicity sake I’m going to sort it into five categories; Trades, Browns moves, cuts, retirements, free agency and best free agents remaining, with each one being published on consecutive days.

Trades

LeSean McCoy Kiko Alonso

  • The main one that shocked people and really set the ball rolling was the one of LeSean McCoy to the Bills for Kiko Alonso. Obviously McCoy is an immense talent being a two time All-Pro who has gone over 1300 yards three times in his six year career but with a $10 million cap hit next and already having six years on the clock and being a free agent next year it is understandable but still quite surprising that he was traded from the Eagles. I must admit I’m a fan of Kiko Alonso from his rookie year and that he is really nice consolation for the Eagles, I would still be worried about his health and whether it could have any long term effects on his health. From a Bills point of view it has got to be a home run trade to help kick start the Rex Ryan era in Buffalo. From his days in New York, we know that Ryan always had good defences regardless of good or bad the players at his disposal were but lack the offensive talent to match on the other side. I mean when Mark Sanchez was your best player you know you have a bit of problem. With McCoy the Bills get a franchise running back to go along with the veteran Fred Jackson who will take the pressure off of a passing attack that relied on rookie WR Sammie Watkins last year. The Bills also wrapped up McCoy for another five years with a five year, $40 million dollar contract. Alonso was a massive loss after the Bills signed Brandon Spikes and moved Alonso from middle linebacker to weak side linebacker.
  • The Bills then went out and further solidified their offense by trading for veteran QB Matt Cassel sending a 2015 5th round pick and a 2016 7th round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Cassel and a 2015 6th round pick. While Cassel is hardly the ideal situation for an offense he is still an upgrade of EJ Manuel and will give the Bills some invaluable veteran savvy while also helping to teach Manuel. This could well be Cassel last stop if everything goes right and he manages to lock down the starting role permanently.
  • Then out of the blue the Bears decided to trade Brandon Marshall to the Jets for pretty much nothing in return. The deal was that the Bears sent Marshall and a 2015 7th round pick to the Jets in exchange for a 5th round pick. While Marshall did have his worst year since his rookie season last year and failing to break the 1000 yard for the first time in 7 seasons he still has plenty to contribute. With Chicago cleaning house during the offseason with John Fox replacing Marc Trestmann and Marshall known as a bit of a locker room distraction and his $7.5 million cap figure, it is understandable but still surprising none the less. With Marshall’s arrival the Jets can push Eric Decker to his more natural position WR2 and have a true number one receiver to lean on.
  • Jimmy Graham Max Unger

  • Then if the Marshall and McCoy were surprising I don’t if there is a word that can describe the trade of Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks. Less than 12 months ago the Saints made Graham one of the faces of their franchises along with Drew Brees giving him a 4 year, $40 million dollar deal. Yet when Seattle came calling they weren’t all that reluctant to part with him exchanging him along with a 4th round pick for former All Pro centre Max Unger and 2015 1st round pick (31st). Don’t get me wrong Unger is a fantastic player and provided they can get even a starter with the pick then this is a fair trade but it most have been a real difficult one to feel good about. Graham is just a frankly ridiculous player at 6-7 with 4.5 40 speed with the ability to line up anywhere on the pitch. With him the Seahawks get the best tight end in the game and a legitimate down field threat. With a target of his size it is safe to say that Richardo Lockette won’t be getting any screens in the Redzone next season. With Graham and his ability the Seahawks would have to be preseason favourites to be hoisting the Lombardi trophy at the end of the year.
  • Haloti Ngata

  • With Ndamukong Suh signing his six year, $114 million dollar (more on that tomorrow) and Nick Fairley being a free agent, the Detroit Lions defensive front went from being their best unit to being one of their worst, that is until they went out and traded for 5 time All-Pro Haloti Ngata. Ngata has long been considered one of the best NTs in the league and with the Lions he has every opportunity to succeed with talented young players like Ezekiel Ansah. From a Ravens perspective, contract talks were apparently going nowhere and it is a big relief to get his $16 million cap figure off the books and still get some value back in the form of 2015 4th and 5th round picks. For Detroit, restructuring and extending Ngata’s contract is a must with the massive cap number. The only real worries about Ngata are his age and the looming 4 game Adderall suspension.
  • Sam Bradford Nick Foles

  • That wasn’t the end of it though with Chip Kelly continuing to clean house sending Nick Foles, a 2015 4th round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick for Sam Bradford and a 2015 5th round pick. While Sam Bradford is clearly a great talent and a possible franchise QB if he can stay healthy and has all the skills to excel in Chip Kelly’s spread scheme but my big problem for me is that health part. Out of 80 possible starts, Bradford has only started 49 games (61%) and for that he has been paid $65 million and didn’t play at all last season. Although Kelly’s medical staff is renowned for its innovative approach and their ability to keep players on the field they could have bitten off more that they could chew with Bradford whose injury problems go all the ways back to college when he injured his throwing shoulder in his junior year and was a risk when the Rams decided to take him #1 overall. In Foles, the Rams get a player who a serious potential but needs to become more consistent than he was last year. We got a good glimpse of what Foles could be in 2013 when he threw 19 TDs to only 2INTs after taking over from Michael Vick after he went down injured. Another problem for though is what Philly had to give up to go and get Bradford. Bradford, as talented as he is, is not worth Foles, a 2nd and 4th rounder, especially when you consider he only lead the Rams to only 18 wins in his 49 starts (37%).
  • Miami who had already been busy in signing Suh, went ahead and took advantage of the Saint’s cap problem and got Kenny Stills in exchange for Dannell Ellerbe and a 3rd round pick. Ellerbe who was injured for of this season and was a disappointment in general since he signed was going to be cut anyway by the Dolphins if no takers were found so being able to get a playmaker like Stills on a cap friendly rookie salary for essentially a 3rd round pick is an absolute steal. While from a New Orleans perspective it’s a bit of a head scratcher as the gave a potential star in Kenny Stills for a an aging linebacker who the probably could have gotten in free agency and a third pick where they aren’t guaranteed by any means to find someone as good as Stills. After the Saints two trades they do have and impressive 5 picks in the top 100 (two 1sts, a 2nd and two 3rds). From a Dolphins point of view it was merely the lead to their big trade of the day.
  • NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

  • Mike Wallace, the most prized free agent of the 2013 free agent market is gone from Miami after only two years. Wallace was shipped along with a 7th round pick to the Vikings in exchange for a 5th round before a $3 million roster bonus would have been paid this weekend. Wallace didn’t really succeed at all in Miami with him and Fins QB Ryan Tannehill not really suiting each other’s games. Wallace is a pure speed guy who can take the top of any defence whereas Tannehill’s biggest struggle is the deep ball so it was never going to be an ideal match. Wallace will go to the Vikings who were big fans of him back in 2013, so much so that they offered him $16 million more than he ended up taking from the Dolphins. Wallace will be a match made in heaven with Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater allowing him of options down the field where is sure to see a ton of man coverage if Adrian Peterson does return and play for the Vikings this season. The big loser in all of this might be Greg Jennings with his $8.9 million cap number who could a casualty.
  • Other lesser trades of note include that of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Jets from the Texans for a 7th round pick. Fitzpatrick will likely be able to outperform Geno Smith in camp and will probably be the Jets starter next season. The Texans also trade away backup Case Keenum to the Rams for a 7th round pick where he’ll probably be a 2nd or 3rd  stringer. One weird quirk of free agency was the Texans having 5 QBs on their roster for a day after signing former Brown Brian Hoyer. The Saints also traded guard Ben Grubbs to the Chiefs in exchange for a 5th round pick this year in more cap saving measures.Tomorrow, Browns news.

Is it time to part with Ahtyba Rubin?

Every since the Browns decided to a flyer on Ahtyba Rubin and selected him in the 6th round way back in 2008, he has been a valuable member of the Browns defense and has started at least 11 games a year since 2010. While Rubin has been a valuable player for the Browns, he struggled pretty badly last season and with him surely going to be looking for at least $5 million a year, you’d have to wonder whether it is still worthwhile keeping Ahtyba Rubin around next season?

Ahtyba Rubin sacks Tom Brady

Rubin sacks Tom Brady in a game against the Patriots in 2013, one of only three he has had in the last two seasons

Rubin is coming to the end of a four year/ $26.5 million contract which paid him $6.6 million last year and is due to become an unrestricted free agent on March 10. Rubin is 28 and probably wont be willing to accept  any less for $5 million a year with him realizing this could be his last real payday but with how he played last year and with how he fits with the Browns scheme I really feel that he wouldn’t be worth that much to the Browns despite all the cap space they have at their disposal. It is three front offices(unfortunately) since Rubin drafted and this current on e would hold no loyalty for him in the way the front office that drafted him would. Rubin was schedule to start at DE this season but end up spending quite a lot of his season playing NT because Phil Taylor played only 5 games and to be completely honest he never really looked comfortable playing there.

Rubin is more of a 4-3 DT and this showed last year with him being a liability in the run game being a major reason why the Browns finished dead last in the run defense giving up 141.6 yards a game on the ground. In the 3-4 the nose tackle is arguably the most important position when it comes to stop the run as he has the responsibility of both A gaps i.e. lining up directly opposite the center and taking up the either side of him which are the main lanes for any rushing plays. Rubin didn’t seem to be able to consistently to be able to take up blocks and help stop the run. this proved to be a major problem for the Browns especially when their top linebacker Karlos Dansby went to injury.

Another problem with bringing Rubin back would be that he could damage the development of talented young players such as Armonty Bryant, Billy Winn and John Hughes all of whom are under contract next year for a combined $2.1 million. At this stage of his career I feel we have seen the best that Rubin has to offer and it certainly is starter material in the right scheme and he really was a steal considering his draft position but not as valuable to the Browns as he used to be. With one defensive end slot for next year all but guaranteed for Desmond Bryant I think a committee approach between the three players or between Winn and Hughes with Bryant playing OLB would be more beneficial for the Browns. With Hughes’ and Winn’s contracts expiring at the end of next season giving them more playing time would almost certainly help in trying to resign them if that is what the Browns want.

Ahtyba Rubin(1)

Rubin may be moving from the Browns this off-season 

Another that could work against Rubin is that there is some rumors that the Browns are looking into moving Phil Taylor from nose tackle to defensive end and trying to find a new nose tackle in free agency or the draft. Moving Taylor to a more natural defensive end position would make an already crowded position even more crowded and Rubin more expendable. The Browns are expected to try and make a run at Lions DT Ndamukong Suh in free agency and with him expected to be asking for at least $16 million a year all the contracts the Browns could get off the books that better.

That’s not to say there is no chance that there isn’t any chance of Rubin being back next year with the Browns having plenty of room under the salary cap with around $47.8 million available. Rubin certainly wouldn’t be bad as a backup for the Browns either as he can contribute and he has always worked hard throughout his career with Browns and would help to be an example of the “play like a Brown” motto that Mike Pettine was so fond of using this season.

Although I have liked Rubin in the time he has been with the Browns and I wouldn’t mad if he came back I think his time with the Browns has come to the end of run. I think based on his performance last year, the abundance of young talent at the position and age I don’t see the Browns bringing back Rubin for another year.

Moving up for Mariota

In the last two weeks, multiple reports have linked the Browns with Oregon QB Marcus Mariota with the reports saying that they would be willing to trade up for Mariota. These claims were boosted by the fact that the Browns new QB coach Kevin O’Connell is currently working as Mariota’s personal QB and will be until after the combine and Oregon’s Pro day.

Marcus Mariota(1)

As of now, Mariota might be one of the most polarizing players in the draft. Mariota is a consensus top 15 and simply just will not stay on the board any longer that with the value of quarterbacks in today’s NFL. Its not off the where the issues lie like Winston’s, he was a role model and a scholar during his time in at Oregon. Its not about his physical skills as he very good specimen at 6’4” and 219 pounds with a 4.4 40 speed there no shortage of height or speed. Watching Mariota at Oregon, he really passes the eye test looking flawless and calm at all situations winning the Heismann trophy this but still looked a little questionable in a couple of situations. These situations are a cause for concerns especially his games against Stanford and this year’s title game against Ohio State. Mariota’s had a few injuries in his time at Oregon but nothing to get too concerned about. It’s adapting is what’s key with Oregon’s scheme being completely different to every pro team bar Chip Kelly’s Eagles and Mariota lacking any experience in a pro scheme. Mariota is a smart guy and and I do feel like he is the kind of guy who’ll learn the playbook by training camp, it just a big step and I can’t say that Mariota is ready for it. Jameis Winston might be a bigger risk with the off the field issues but schematically he is a good fit for most offenses in the league. Mariota comes from a system in a Oregon where the man three plays were a zone read, screen pass and a read option which the Ducks have used to great effect when running the offense at their lighting fast speed. He just not going to see that many of those plays in the NFL.

Marcus Mariota fumble

Marcus Mariota fumbles in one of his worst games for Oregon in a loss to Stanford

From a Brown’s point of view it would be a curious move but if it were to happen you’d have to think that they would be a hundred percent certain that he was their guy and was able to make the transition. They have an in that no other team with soon to be QB coach Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell will work with Mariota until after Oregon’s Pro day on the 14th of March before linking up in the Browns. This gives the Browns a month and a half to weigh up whether it is worth moving up for Mariota and whether he is the long term answer at QB. Its not just Mariota they will have to judge as they have two young QBs under contract next year in Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw and a decent starting QB in Brian Hoyer who is interested in coming back but just wishes to be paid. If they are going to try and move up they need to be a hundred percent sure that Mariota is the starter from day one, not in one or two years but right from the moment he steps in the door. Two first round picks is a massive price for any player especially when there are other needs which I would consider to be a bigger needs in NT and WR.

For me I would consider it too much to give up without seeing what Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel can develop into and contribute to the Browns. The price tag is just too much for a player with some question marks about his adaptability and especially if you need help elsewhere like the Browns do. That’s not to say I would against Mariota playing for the Browns if he fell down to 12th or even if fell to 7th or 8th and it was more affordable to make a move for him. Even if Mariota does begin to slide a bit I just can’t see him moving past the Jets at 6th. All I want for the Browns to be a hundred percent that Mariota will be an upgrade because this franchise of all franchises has had their share of QB pain.

More on why it isn’t worth moving up for Mariota: Trading up for a first round quarterback is rarely worth the cost

Same Old Browns

For years the stereotype of the Cleveland Browns has been of a dysfunctional organisation which changes it QB and coach almost annually and the last two weeks have done nothing to change that stereotype. If anything it has only made it worse with the circus that is Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon and GM Ray Farmer. Here I am grudgingly going to sort through them.

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel– While going into a rehab certainly can’t be seen as a bad move for him personally and professionally, it really makes you wonder what happened last year. Manziel, a rookie who had addiction problems so bad that he had to go to rehab to sort them out was chosen to start 2 games despite having a solid starter in Brian Hoyer. Rumours circulating since Kyle Shanahan left have been suggesting that he wanted to stick with Hoyer but he was forced to play Manziel by GM Ray Farmer, Owner Jimmy Haslam and others. I have heard some say that this resembles Brett Favre‘s career slightly with him going onto win three MVP titles in a row after having a stint in rehab for an addiction to painkillers. To compare them is natural with his similar kind of improvisational style but Brett Favre never went out partying in the same way that Manziel has. The hiring of Manziel’s personal QB coach Kevin O’Connell as the Browns QB is slightly dubious although Mike Pettine and John DeFilippo insist that he would have been chosen anyway and the main reason he was hired was because he worked with them in the past in his days as a backup QB with the Jets back in 2009 -10. Its kind of telling of who the Browns ownership and front office want as their starter. A plus point to this move though is the fact that he worked extensively with Marcus Mariota and also has some experience with Jameis Winston from his current job preparing QBs for the draft should the Browns make a move for either of them. O’Connell was a mobile QB himself who spent 5 years in the league and should be able to help Manziel adjust once he links up with him after the combine. For now I applaud him for trying to get help and sort out his life but you can’t help but wonder if he is a long term fit for the Browns.

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon– I’m struggling to even think where to begin with Gordon but I should probably start of with a recap. Gordon’s problems really started when he was at Baylor and got kicked out for failing three drug tests. He went on to spend a year at Utah without playing due to NCAA transfer rules before getting drafted in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft by the Browns. At end of his promising rookie season, Gordon got caught taking codeine which said came from taking a cough bottle. He was banned for the first four games but this was reduced to two and four game cheques on appeal. Upon returning, Gordon went on to lead the league in receiving and set multiple NFL and Browns records despite only playing 14 games.If that was all that happened then you might consider it somewhat acceptable but its what happens after the first suspension that is the real big problem. Last year, despite knowing that he was in the NFL drug system and that any kind of misdemeanor would get him suspended again he allowed himself to be in a situation where enough marijuana got his system that he failed an NFL mandated drug test. He strenuously denies that he smoked marijuana and said that the positive test was as a result of second hand smoke but when your lively hood rests on something as simple as not doing illegal drugs then you really got to questions why he put himself in that situation. It wasn’t like there wasn’t a reward for him staying clean with a prize of around $500,000 if he didn’t re-offend. That is before you even mention the DWI he got in N.C. during the same off-season. Then when he came back for the last two games he visibly wasn’t prepared for the NFL with him running wrong routes and causing Brian Hoyer to throw interceptions because he wasn’t where he supposed to be, with reports coming out from team sources that he didn’t know the plays or the playbook. Then despite having already served a 12 game suspension that season Gordon went ahead and got suspended for the Browns final game because he decided to go out and party the night before a game and got suspended for the Baltimore game along with rookies Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel. Then when he just could not seem to do anything worse he went away and failed yet another drug test. This time for alcohol after getting drunk on a flight to Vegas. Hardly a place for a man who should be keeping his head down. The result, a years suspension without pay. Gordon then penned a letter to respond to his critics but really it is too little, too late. It really makes you wonder when if ever Gordon is going to learn.

Cleveland Browns  v Pittsburgh Steelers

Ownership– Finally the most bizarre of all and yet the most stereotypical Browns thing that could have happened. Reports began to come out in January at the same time that Kyle Shanahan asked for a release that a Browns staff member was texting a coach play calls on the sidelines. Now at the time I speculated that it was QB coach Dowell Loggains who had a very close relationship with Johnny Manziel and had shown a meddling streak when he texted Jimmy Haslam to convince him to draft Manziel. This week though news emerged that NFL is investigating GM Ray Farmer for texts he sent to Kyle Shanahan which is a violation of NFL regulations. The must likely outcome now is that Farmer will be find and that the Browns will lose a mid-round draft pick because of it but that is not the real issue here. Its the fact that it was even allowed to happen and the culture that must exist in the Browns front office. Really its got to start from the top where Jimmy Haslam must start to use some of the lessons he learned from the Rooneys during his time as a minority owner and help build a solid organizations where shenanigans like this don’t happen. That means taking a step back and let the coaches and front office do their jobs. He needs to stop the interfering that lead one owner to call him like “Jerry Jones with the football IQ” and needs to keep his business affairs clean if wants to stay an owner. GM Ray Farmer and team president Alec Scheiner need to learn that their jobs are on the personal and business sides respectively and not on the coaching side. Farmer should concentrate on getting the right pieces in and putting a good support structure in place for them so incidents like this stop happening. Mike Pettine and his staff need to be able to do their job because they clearly aren’t that bad leading the team to their best record since 2007.

If the Browns can finally get all of this under control then maybe they’ll be able to shake the label of being the “same old Browns” and move on and become a more stable and successful organization.

P.S. Definitely read CBS Sports’ Jason LaConfora’s piece on the dysfunctional Browns – Browns’ mess with Gordon, Manziel begins with owner Haslam’s meddling

The link to Josh Gordon’s full letter is right here

November Games

November is often said to be the most important month of college football as November is when all of the non conference games are gone and the division races are heating up and this year is better than usual as instead of the 4 we usually we have there is 5. The number of notable things so far in the month; we saw Mississippi State lose for the first time, my beloved Buckeyes beat two ranked teams in Michigan State and Minnesota, Notre Dame capitulating horrifically and getting a good idea of who is in the play-off picture.

  • First of the Buckeyes beat reigning B1G 10 champs Michigan State 49-37 in East Lansing to pretty much wrap up the East division and also gave the Buckeyes a signature win of a top ten programme. JT Barrett continued to look impressive since the loss to Virginia Tech and will probably get an invite to go New York as a Heismann finalist this year. The Buckeyes are in sixth at the moment looking in on the rest and really probably needing a loss to get into the play-off although I don’t see Miss State finishing in the top 4 unless Alabama loses again which could happen quite easily against Auburn in the Iron Bowl or in Atlanta in the SEC championship game. The Buckeyes still will probably play a top 15 ranked team in Wisconsin in the B1G Ten title game and it may enough to push it in but its gonna be tough but if the y didn’t make it I couldn’t really have any complaints after they lost to Virginia Tech.

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    JT Barrett runs for a Touchdown against Michigan State

  • What’s gonna happen with the QBs next year? I know Braxton Miller will be the fifth year senior coming back from injury but can you really take the job away from JT Barrett after the way he has come in and absolutely dominated since the Virginia Tech game? JT Barrett performed so well that he beat the record for Touchdowns in a season set only last year by Miller. I think its gonna be a hell of a battle in camp and will probably result in time be split between the two in the early non conference games but eventually Urban Meyer is gonna have to make a decision one way or another.

  • Regarding the whole Oregon being ahead of Florida State in the CFP poll its ridiculous. FSU isn’t popular with the public and hasn’t been too impressive in the way it beats people (see Miami and Louisville games) but still undefeated and that trumps all in my books. The Seminoles should be first until the show the aren’t deserving of it. I know people will say it doesn’t make a difference once there in but seeding does matter with opposition and its a lot easier for the Noles to play close to home in the Sugar Bowl, than it is too cross the country and go the Rose Bowl.

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    Melvin Gordon hurdling a Nebraska defender on his way to a FBS record 408 yards

  • That boy Melvin Gordon sure can run can’t he? 408 yards in three quarters is pretty sweet for the guy supposed the second best back in this game. Gordon’s record breaking performance helped power the Badgers to 70-29 win over Nebraska which has probably helped to decide the division in Wisconsin’s favour. My favourite statistic was the one that on 7 of Gordon’s run he wasn’t touch until he was 20 yards or more down the pitch. I watched this game and I have never I mean never seen tackling as bad as it in my life. At one stage he ran through three Corn huskers and the most any of them could offer was a half-hearted arm tackle. I thought watching the game that if he stayed in for the fourth he could have broken 600 yards and that’s not exaggerating as the entire game after the first quarter seemed to be Nebraska three and out (1 of 10 on 3rd down) and Melvin Gordon big run, Melvin Gordon big run, Touchdown. I just hope he is not this good against Ohio State.

  • Todd Gurley has been one of my favourite players right from the very start as only the second college game I ever watch was the Dawgs lose to Clemson last year to start off the season and he just blew me away. A devastating combination of power and pace Gurley was star for Georgia and its really disappointing for it to likely end the way it did. A really hope he makes a full recovery from this injury and be star at the next level because I think he will be but you never know with knee injuries, just look at Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore, an All American at South Carolina tore his ACL and had to retire last week as it never healed well enough to be able to play at an NFL level. I think the best chance of a 1st round pick being used on a Running Back is gone as well with Gurley gone for a year likely. Its also disappointing for Georgia’s play-off hopes but hopeful Nick Chubb can help stead the ship and continue to play well. I wish Gurley all the best and hope he recovers.

  • To continue with Georgia a minute, what was that game against Florida? All Georgia had to do was to win out and it would have been in the play-off but no that was too much to ask of the Dawgs despite playing in the pretty torrid SEC East. Instead they went off and lost to a Florida team that completed only 3 passes but ran for 418 yards. How do you give 418 yards rushing to a team that clearly just cannot passes the ball? It simply isn’t good enough and this Bulldogs got found out because of it and now need Mizzou to lose a game before they could get to Atlanta let alone the play-offs.

  • I had the Miss State-Alabama game on in the background as I was watching the Wisconsin-Nebraska but turned over to it as the main game in the fourth after Wisconsin had benched Gordon and it was just a matter of seeing out the game. I have to say I wasn’t that impressed with the Tide but they got the job done and that’s what counts. They came big when it counted with Blake Sims getting some nice conversion with his legs when they need it and their defence being as dominant as ever. Alabama know control their own destiny in the SEC West but the Iron Bowl looms against an Auburn team that would love to play spoiler to the Tide’s play-off dreams.

  • Some weird stuff happened in Corvallis this weekend with #7 Arizona State falling to Oregon State. The Beavers were only 1-5 in the PAC-12 coming into the game but Corvallis is always a difficult place to travel to and now we are left with one less team in the play-off picture. Even if Arizona State had won, its most impressive win would have taken a hit with Notre Dame losing to Northwestern. Now Todd Gratham is free to do what he does best, move schools (Florida or Michigan anyone?)

  • On the whole Baylor/TCU and who should be ranked higher thing I feel the Big 12 should be let play out and one of them will prevail. Right now my leaning is towards TCU because with games against a real OK Oklahoma State team and a pretty good Kansas State team still to come for Baylor as well Bryce Petty not being a revelation or anything I just don’t see them getting to the play-offs. This will sound really hipster and an attempt to seem really avant garde but I did think big things could happen for TCU this year after watching them play last year particularly in the season opener against LSU in Cowboy’s stadium. Things didn’t really work out last season for them and I tempered my expectations after the Devonta Fields was kicked off the team pre-season but man have they been good. Only stopping them this far is the fact that their season was very front loaded and that will affect voters as we get into crunch time.

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    Rakeem Cato has Marshall on an 11 game winning streak but they’re still unranked in the CFP poll

  • When is a Group of five team going to be ranked? There’s only so long you can put it off for and keeping a Minnesota team in 25th place after it lost its third game of the season over a Marshall team that is the ONLY UNDEFEATED TEAM IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY is frankly ridiculous in my eyes and I am beginning to suspect are they not going to rank group of five team so they get to an unhindered choice for the access spot. Even if they don’t like Marshall and its strength of schedule then surely Colorado State is worthy of a spot on the list with being ranked in both of the conventional polls and being the best team in the Mountain West. The Committee has got to get some respect for these teams and soon.

  • Notre Dame must be wishing that November never happened with three consecutive losses to go from #5 to unranked. The Florida State and Arizona State losses hurt but are reasonably ok but losing to Northwestern is different matter altogether especially with the way the collapsed in the game. Up by 11 after a Touchdown Brian Kelly decided to go for two rather the extra point and they blew it. With an 11 point lead all Northwestern needed was a TD with a 2 point conversion sand a FG rather than the two TDs they’d have needed if it they’d kicked the extra point. In true Notre Dame fashion this season the winning score came off a turnover.
  • Poor Will Muschamp. Even though he didn’t do a good job after that first season where the went to the Sugar Bowl he still deserved to be treated better than this. Pretty much a dead man walking since the start of the year the amount of abuse he has come in for is ridiculous to the point where the fans in his own stadiums were chanting “FIRE-MUS-CHAMP”. That win over Georgia must be sweet though and he might get an even better send off if he can beat Florida State in his final game

I’ll be back at the end of the month with the second half of the review of November when we’ll have a better view of how things are shaping up.

19 Years On

The Browns won last Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals and coupled with the Steelers loss against the lowly Jets meant that for the first time in 19 years the Browns are in sole possession of 1st place in the AFC North. NINETEEN YEARS!!! Last time the Browns were head of the division Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise was top of the charts, Browns GM Ray Farmer was playing safety for Duke and I wouldn’t be born for another two years. Ironically it is almost 19 years to the day since Art Modell decided to betray Cleveland and for the first time since the Browns truly are back.

Desmond Bryant sacks Andy Dalton

Desmond Bryant sacks Andy Dalton on back to back plays Thursday

We have had some teams that have gotten hot and over performed before flaming out(2007) and other teams that gave false hope (2002) but this one is different. With two 1st round picks in next year’s draft and with All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon still to come back I don’t see why this cant last. I remember being skeptical back in August when Ray Farmer referenced the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl with no Pro bowl receivers as to why he didn’t pick a receiver in the draft and down right laughing at Mike Pettine’s mantra to “Play like a Brown” but it turns out his idea of it was quite different to mine. While I thought of a team that won only one of their last nine games and just collapsed horrifically under Brandon Weeden and Norv Turner/Ray Horton’s defence not playing on 3rd down, he thought of the Browns teams of the Jim Brown era, who’d punch it up middle and control the game with their dominance in the trenches. It ain’t too pretty and looks like something from the 1970’s but with 6 wins in 9 games when I only predicted them to win 6 games all season. Last year the Browns led the league in pass attempts due to the combination of nobody at Running Back(Fozzy Whitaker? Willis McGahee?) and Norv Turner calling his pass heavy Air Raid offense. This year could well end up being last due to the a completely new rushing attack and a new philosophy under Kyle Shanahan. I must say when I heard Kyle Shanahan was the new OC of the Browns I wasn’t too pleased as I thought it was too pleased as I thought it was to help Johnny Manziel adjust into the starting line up after his success with Robert Griffin III in his Rookie season. Instead he has returned more to his Texan’s playbook that he used to lead them to a top 10 offense with Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Another big reason for the Browns improvement has been the Free Agents signings with leaders like Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Andrew Hawkins and Ben Tate coming from winning orgainisations and hepling to change the culture of the Browns as well as making big plays on the field as well.

With a manageable series of games down the stretch with only three games against teams with winning records and All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon due back to practiced in Berea on Monday there is plenty of buzz around the city and the NFL in general about a potential playoff push after a dominating the Bengals on Thursday Night Football(TNF). A win that was all but wrapped up by the second quarter when Billy Cundiff hit a 32 yard field goal, the Bengals had no answers for a Browns offense whose game-plan was to run it down your throat until you forced them to change which they didn’t although it must noted that despite the rest of the teams never leaving the locker room DT Geno Atkins did make some big plays including one where tackled Brian Hoyer to the ground before he could hand it off on a run up the middle. For Cincinnati the “Red Rifle” that is Andy Dalton was horrific and I tried not to be overcritical as a Browns fan as after watching Brandon Weeden I’m grading form a pretty low base but even then his numbers were horrific and for a “Franchise Quarterback” or at least someone who is being like it this just isn’t an acceptable performance. 2.0 that’s his QB rating. Pause for a minute and let that sink in. He threw 3 INTs and was lucky not to have a fourth one after Tashaun Gipson dropped one that was straight to his chest and only had a completion rate of 30%. on the outside All-Pro Joe Haden did a great job covering AJ Green and forcing the action to the other side of the field and allowed Buster Skrine to pick of Dalton twice.

Leah Stills

Leah Stills on the pitch Thursday night after presenting a cheque for $1.3 million

Although the Browns won big it really a game about more than football. The main event in Paul Brown stadium was the daughter of Devon Stills who stole the show and hearts of crowds during pregame. Leah, the four year old daughter of Stills who is battling cancer was able to see her father play for the first time and in the break between the first and second quarter she was on the pitch with her grandmother to present a cheque of more than $1.3 million for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for research into pediatric cancer. This money was raised by the sale of her father number 75 jerseys(11th best selling this season) from which all proceeds went to charity.

With three straights games against teams who aren’t above .500 there still plenty optimism about the Browns this year. Arguably the most important of those games is the match in Orchard Park against Buffalo as they are not only AFC rivals for a playoff spot but also a win over the Bills would worth twice as much as usual with another victory in the win total and would also make Buffalo’s 1st round pick(which belongs to the Browns from Sammy Watkins trade) more valuable. With want to jinx anything I still don’t see why the Browns cant win at least 4 more games and finish 10-6 and go to the playoffs.