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Home » Browns » Browns 2013 preview: The year of indifference.

Browns 2013 preview: The year of indifference.

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The Cleveland Browns had five wins last year.  They’ve had four wins or five wins in each of the last five seasons.  The recent Browns teams have been pursuing mediocrity in vain.  Average would be a step in the right direction for 2013.  Trending upward would be something to be excited for.  Fill some holes, get some luck, and who knows, maybe playoffs.  It’s happened before.

But instead ennui has set in.  The offseason preceding the 2013 Browns season saw another new regime and another spewing of horseshit from another group of carpetbaggers.  To wit:

  1. The Browns were active in free agency signing one big name, two big contracts to bolster the strongest part of the 2012 team, the front seven.  At the close of free agency, the Browns had the most cap space available but rather than spend it, Berea spewed horseshit about not wanting older players, not wanting too many new players, not liking available free agents, and wanting to build through the draft.

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    Actually drafts players in fourth round. What a maroon!

  2. The Browns draft saw them bypass an opportunity to swap their #6 pick for #16 and #47 in order to draft a player to bolster –even more– the strongest part of the team, the front seven.  Horseshit spewing ensued with bromides including “can’t have too many pass rushers.”  Even more bold, by trading out of rounds four and five, the Browns insinuated that they’re smarter than the league in general and, in particular, smarter than 2x SB Champ GM, Kevin Colbert (Steelers) and last year’s Executive of the Year, Ryan Grigson (Colts).  After all, those two fools actually wanted to draft players at our slots.
  3. The draft shenanigans included horeshit about not wanting too many young players on the team since it was already young.  But that too is now revealed as yet still more horsehit because here we are today at the waiver deadline… and yep, they got younger.  From Grossi:

    The cumulative effect of the transactions was that the NFL’s second-youngest roster – as of Saturday night – was made younger and less experienced.Less than 24 hours after the “final” roster cut, the following players were sent packing:  Running back Brandon Jackson (27 years old), tight end Kellen Davis (27), linebacker L.J. Fort (23), offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann (22), offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw (25) and fullback Brad Smelley (24).They were replaced by:  Tight end MarQuies Gray (23), running back Dennis Johnson (23), offensive lineman Patrick Lewis (22), linebacker Brandon Magee (22), tight end Keavon Milton (23) and running back Bobby Rainey (25).

  4. And finally there’s the never-ending crowing about renovating offices and painting the Successories catalogue on your walls as though this is somehow something your fans care the slightest about.

There’s really no way to look at this off-season and derive that even the modest goal of “average” is a Berea goal for the ’13 Browns.

For me, and for other fans, it’s become something of a chore to muster optimism that this could be the year.  Berea ain’t trying to win this year; why should I try to get fired up?  So I’ve tuned out this Browns team and the Browns regime.  They want to punt this year, fine.  They want to talk in circles, fine.  I’ll go watch the games and root for them like I always do.  But the continued insults to my fandom’s intelligence has left callouses and I’m more indifferent to the opening of this Browns season than any I can remember.

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The structure of the preview is this:

  1. Talent acquisition review (comparing depth chart now to end of last season).
  2. Positional review (state of each position, assessment of Browns’ execution of their GAP/SWOT analyses).  (Scratch the SWOT analyses.  Indiff.)
  3. Coaching changing.
  4. Outstanding/unresolved issues (turds).
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Median Browns talent acquisition.

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1.  Talent acquisition

After previously stressing the importance of building the Browns through the draft, Banner and Lombardi circumvented the actual selecting of players – a move that is either next-level genius or one that reeks of sheer contempt for this year’s process.  Instead of literally building roster depth through the draft, Banner and Lombardi decided on a vague strategy of building assets.

That’s Kolonich summing up the Browns’ talent acquisition season.  He’s entirely on the money as he tends to be. Viewing the Browns talent acquiring as an ‘asset building’ exercise and not the ‘adding talented players to improve soft spots in lineup’ process that we’re accustomed to takes some getting used to.  But one look at the depth charts from end of last season to today reveals that addressing needs was not even on the Browns’ radar this offseason.

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Green box, upgrade; black box, neutral; red box, downgrade.

Looks like a net wash.  I’ll grant that Paul Kruger is better than Kaluka Maiava; I think Sheldon Brown is better than Buster Skrine.

If you factor in the truly bizarre placekicker situation where the Browns lost the greatest kicker in their history, perhaps in the NFL’s history (not hyperbole)… if you include Dawson, then the opening day starting lineup is actually poorer than the one closing 2012.

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2.  Positional review.

QB:  No change.
Brandon Weeden figures to be better playing out of a shotgun and in his second year.  He shows signed of staring down his primary receiver just like last year.  Jason Campbell is better than Colt McCoy.  But this analysis don’t care about backups and won’t speak about third stringers.  Because why?  Because we’re indifferent.

RB:  No change.
Trent Richardson figures to be better playing without broken ribs.  But he still halts his own momentum, still runs soft.  Sorry, that’s just what I see.  I’m seeing 5’8″/212 Dennis Johnson as the #2 RB on Ourlads’ Browns depth chart.  Don’t know him, Texans cut him.  Bobby Rainey is #3; I know him from WKU, Ravens cut him.  Nothing exciting here; no notable improvement.

WR:  No change.
Little and Gordon figure to be better with a year of experience.  Davon Bess is a better #3/#4 WR over Josh Cribbs.  Travis Benjamin figures to be better and will possibly do more than end-arounds this year.

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Garrett Gilkey, a significant bright spot in training camp.

TE (need):  Jordan Cameron for Ben Watson.
Cameron should be more of a seam threat than Watson given his greater height and hops.  He’s reportedly a liability as a blocker though and has never started before.

O-line (need):  No change.
The o-line was thin at guard coming into the off-season with Jason Pinkston’s health a question and Ryan Miller unprecedentedly bad in the final game.  A seventh round pick was used on a guard.  Pinkston and Lauvao were injured in camp.  The thin 2012 o-line is actually thinner.

D-line:  Desmond Bryant in, Frostee Rucker out.  No change.
The front four from last year was the strength of the team both in terms of the starters and also the backups.  The front three (now) still is.  Would have been with Desmond Bryant or Frostee Rucker.  The 5yr/34M FA signing of Bryant is as “meh” as it gets.  Wasn’t a need but,ok., I guess.  I’m indifferent I suppose.

Linebackers:  Paul Kruger in, Kaluka Maiava out.  Improved.
It’s fine that Kruger is here to be a pass rusher and stuff.  It’s noteable that the Ravens made no attempt to re-sign him.  It’s unclear who the Browns bid against to get him.  But ok, he had nine sacks in his five starts last year.  Is that worth 5yr/40.5M?  I dunno, but Banner’s the cap guru or so we’ve been told.  The greater need was at ILB and we’ll hope for the best with Craig Robertson.  No ILBs were drafted or signed in FA in spite of the vacancy created by Horton’s new offense.  Just because undrafted FAs from UNT have never crushed it in their first year doesn’t mean it can’t happen this year I guess.

Secondary (need):  No changes.
Browns don’t care enough to sign any d-backs, then I don’t care enough to write about it anymore.  I’ve spent enough time on this subject.

Net net:  we have a highly suspect interior o-line and the smallest/youngest d-backfield in the league.  Our superstar RB has not shown the ‘flashes’ to merit being featured in NFLN Fantasy Football ads.  Our QB has not shown improvement and based on his recent quotes, is either too laissez-faire about any problems or not cognizant of them or both:

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Confused on the concept of ‘panic button.’

Fortunately, I don’t think there’s any reason to push the panic button like a lot of people want to. That’s just, again, people being creatures of habit. You lose a game and everyone wants to … The attitude in here has been great all day, so it’s not in this room. We’re excited. We saw the mistakes, but they’re all fixable.

If you can see I’m staring down receivers from up there or wherever they are – you have to look where you’re throwing.  You have to be smart on certain routes and move safeties and do all those things. But I have to look where I’m throwing.  I’m not that good yet.

There are too many unfixed problems for me to avert my eyes from them.  Yeah sure, pass rush and vertical passing game are cool things to have.  Show it to me on the field.

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3.  Coaching review.
Chudzinski figures to be better than Shurmur.  Norv Turner figures to be better than Shurmur.  Ray Horton is kinda jamming his gambling blitzing leave-zones-open defense down everyone’s throats and Andrew Luck did what a good QB does when you cheat.  So the coaching is better but of course the coaching is better because that coaching would have been mind-blowingly horrendous last year were it not that Romeo Crennell happened within our collective memories.

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4.  Things to keep an eye, aka Turds-in-the-punchbowl.

Leaked stories about Alex Mack.
If you read the sites I read, you’ve seen whispers that Alex Mack ‘isn’t physical enough’ and that the front offense ‘wants him to earn’ his contract.  It was news to me; all I’ve ever heard is how good Mack is.  So Berea is leaking that Mack is soft.  I guess pissing off this year’s best UFA Center could be an effective negotiating tactic… who am I to argue with the guy who thinks himself smarter than Colbert/Grigson?   But yet it still doesn’t make sense to me:  what makes Berea think Mack will just sign with them once he becomes a UFA?  We’ve been fed the horseshit about hoarding cap to ‘sign our guys.’  If Mack was one of their guys, he’d be signed.  So… as flagged here months ago… the Alex-Mack-walks-away-and-inevitably-signs-with-the-Ravens scenario continues to look more likely.

Why we need a strong safety in the box?
Another chestnut I keep reading is how Horton will be able to use TJ Ward in the box more.  That seems like a good idea; conventional knowledge holds that TJ Ward is a better run defender and a good tackler (though he really isn’t) than he is in coverage.  But wait a sec… 48.3% of the Browns salary spend is on the front seven.  After throwing that much dough at the front seven, why is it a good thing to have a safety cheating into the box in run support?  Isn’t the idea that the front seven’s QB pressure will make life easier for the thin secondary?  If the d-backfield is already thin, why you want any of them cheating up?  What am I missing here?

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Comeback delayed.

Actually thinner at guard than at start of camp.
Guard was a know problem last year.  Guard was ignored in free agency.  Guard netted a 7th round pick of a D2 player in the draft.  Now that developmental project from Chadron is  your opening day starter.  This is not good planning.  We saw what Weeden does when pressured and he saw a lot of pressure up the middle in pre-season.  Which leads us all to.

John Greco:  Fairley’s ragdoll.
Right after John Greco signs for 5yr/7.2M Nick Fairley clowned him all game in the Great Lakes Classic.  It was a Fairley ragdolling that cause Greco to roll up Jason Pinkston’s ankle setting back his come back by another couple months.  Greco looked solid all last year.  His being owned by Fairley and again in the Colts game are flags to look out for.

No rookie starters for a 5-11 team committed to building through the draft?
Plainly and simply, teams that build through the draft… those teams draft players that play.  If you’re 5-11, one would think that a drafted rookie could break into the lineup, no?  We’ve reviewed the Rams’ draft with three drafted rookies starting for them.  We’ve reviewed the Bengals with five fourth-or-fifth round picks starting for them (Boling, Charles, Peko, Atkins, Iloka).  The Browns build-through-draft initiative is off to a slow start is you’re being kind; is just more horseshit if you’re being honest.

Still 31st last in cap space.
No need in bludgeoning this any more.  I’ve been after them since before FA started and been consistently perplexed ever since.  Nothing has changed on Banner’s inexplicable cap hoard except that more fans are noticing.

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Cap numbers as of start of 2013 season.

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Prediction?

I’ve been saying six win, I guess I’ll stay with six wins.  Coaching change alone should yield improvement.

I’ll tell ya Brownies, straight-up:  you gotta show me something on the field to change my mind.  The view from here after free agency and the draft was that the Browns are punting the 2013 season.  I eagerly look forward to some demonstration that I’m way off-base in that assessment.

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What’s left for this year?

If I were you, I’d make the most out of this season by joining the greatest Reality Football Game that ever was or will be, the Qarth of football pools:  The 2013 Cheddar Bay Pickstravaganza.


24 Comments

  1. […] 2013 Brown preview (Indifference); TRich, Dancing Bear; The Fallacy of Attacking 3-4 defenses; Having a short secondary; Parsimonious Joe Banner; Alex Mack, Y U NO SIGN HIM; No one cares about Berea’s makeover; Joe Banner’s window-dressing strategy; Norv Turner, paid gun for hire; Gimmicky defenses reliant on personnel packages for specific down/distances are soon to be obsolete; Short d-back issue not tended to in draft; The lunacy and hypocrisy of trading out of the fourth and fifth rounds after eschewing free-agency with the ‘Build through the draft’ mantra; Short d-backs (with math); Drafting redundant pass-rusher; Commitment to non-Excellence; How did a front line with Taylor, Rubin, Sheard become a focal point for renewal? Short d-backs (Kerry Rhodes please); Explaining salary cap rollover and Banner’s hoarding of same; What a smart draft looks like; ILB depth (draft Alec Ogletree); Defining the needs of the team and addressing them through free-agency and draft; O-Guard depth (sign Andy Levitre); Short d-backs (sign Keenan Lewis); Why the 4-3 is inherently better. […]

  2. Malcolm Mathers says:

    Kanicki, I’ve always loved your work, so your failure to mention that the cap space carries over to next year is Grossiesque. Unless you didn’t know that fact, in which case would then make it Reghiesque. Good day.

  3. i really don’t get how there is “no change” at QB, RB, WR, OL, DL, and LB from last year. you don’t expect there to be any natural progression from the 2nd and 3rd year guys??

    QB: Weeden should be much improved with a year under his belt, in addition to an offense more suited to his strengths, in addition to improved talent around him.

    RB: a healthy TRich should be MUCH improved from a banged up one from last season. Sure the backups may not be big-named guys, but are they ever? Obviously if an injury occurs again to Trent we’re in trouble, but what team with with a legit #1 RB doesn’t?

    WR: this is G.Little’s illustrious, all so famous 3rd year that Frownie says is the year WR’s are supposed to finally “get it”. it seems that he has put in the work and effort to make that leap, he always had the physical tools, but the mental part wasn’t quite there yet, but it seems this will be the year for him. not to mention the progression of Gordon and TB, and then the addition of Bess, who was one of the top 3rd down receivers in the NFL the past few years. so i just don’t see how reasonable people would think the WR corps hasn’t been upgraded from last year.

    OL: Schwartz, Mack, Greco, even JT has another year under his belt. of course there is issues with RG again, but hopefully having Schwartzy over there can minimize the liability, but the progression of Schwartz along should be an improvement from last year.

    DL: are you really comparing Desmond Bryant to Frostee Rucker?!?!?! Bryant is a monster and was one of the most coveted DL’s in FA this year. and how about having a healthy Phil Taylor from Game 1, in addition to the progression of Winn and Hughes?? definitely an upgrade from last year.

    LB: so adding Kruger, Groves and Mingo is not an upgrade from the LB corps from last year?????? LOL

    all this being said, my prediction is only one game better than yours, hehe, 7-9, and will take that to paydirt.

  4. […] see him as a leader.  I actually DO like Flacco, but Ravens were just gutted after last year.  The Browns?  Covered them […]

  5. […] consultation with the Chairman Emeritus, we agreed Mich/ND is the better game and also that we were somewhat blasé going into the Browns […]

  6. texinottawa says:

    I would say you used “horseshit ” the appropriate amount of times. No apology needed.

    • supermadelf says:

      Apologizing for abusing the over using of the word Horseshit is, by the very meaning, spirit and gravitas of such a fine word, Horseshit.

  7. clevelandfrowns says:

    Here’s a positive thought. This team does not have anything close to a franchise quarterback, so who really cares about this season? The 2014 draft is loaded. Maybe if Holmgren and Heckert had played it this way in 2011, we’d be sitting with Luck or RGIII today.

    • dan says:

      This isn’t how H&H played it in 2011?

      • clevelandfrowns says:

        If it’s how they were trying to play it (I do see the argument for that!), they did it wrong.

        • dan says:

          Not at all! The Browns were in the perfect position to trade up and get RG3. It was only Heckert’s incompetence that preventing this from working — if that is, indeed, what they were planning.

          I guess I don’t get tired of complaining about this, so here goes: Holmgren admitted that the way the Browns valued draft picks, their offer was equal to or greater than what Washington offered the Rams. The only problem was that they didn’t bother learning how St. Louis valued picks. Had they done some basic preparation for a negotiation, H&H could have made an offer that they valued less than what they were willing to pay that the Rams would have valued as greater than the Washington offer. So yes, if 2011 was a strategy for getting an elite QB, the in-season strategy worked, only to be foiled by lazy incompetence in the offseason.

  8. bupalos says:

    What’s the deal with no one wanting Kickalicious? Why wouldn’t we just do that? That guy has good range and a really short delivery, and obviously with his trick kicking stuff he should be able to develop as a bad-weather guy.

    I’m wondering if he’s another example of the defensive thinking that infects most of the NFL–the best individual example of which is something like the firestorm around the coach that deferred in overtime, the best systemic example being the total innumeracy around going for it on 4th down. No one quite wants to pull the trigger on this guy because when he misses the 48 yarder to lose the game (as all kickers eventually do) it’s just too high a profile thing. No one wants to stick their head up and get it chopped off and get made fun of for hanging their team’s fate on youtube.

    Seems like a no-brainer for the Browns. Good marketing move, seems to be as good as any other option at K, and we’re in another…um… low-risk season.

  9. […] “No rookie starters for a 5-11 team committed to building through the draft? Plainly and simply, teams that build through the draft… those teams draft players that play. If you’re 5-11, one would think that a drafted rookie could break into the lineup, no? We’ve reviewed the Rams’ draft with three drafted rookies starting for them. We’ve reviewed the Bengals with five fourth-or-fifth round picks starting for them (Boling, Charles, Peko, Atkins, Iloka). The Browns build-through-draft initiative is off to a slow start is you’re being kind; is just more horseshit if you’re being honest.” [Kanick] […]

  10. I’m glad it was stated here.

    Phil Dawson is not only the best kicker in Browns history…he is the best kicker in league history.

    No one outside of Cleveland knows it yet…when he hits a 50 yarder in a driving snowstorm in the Super Bowl to win it…well then everyone will get it.

    The 2013 Browns will lose a game this year because of the kicker.

    I just think we are at a point with the Browns where we just can’t put a wins number yet on just how bad Pat Shurmur was. Chud has zero games of NFL experience at the head of a team and I already feel one million times better just from his actions on the sideline in the preseason and how he talks to the media.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and just say 8-8.

    Then the true test for this regime comes next offseason…

    • bupalos says:

      Driving snowstorm in the Super Bowl??

      Climate change is going to have to really get on it’s crazy horse if Phil wants to kick snowstorm field goals.

      >>>The 2013 Browns will lose a game this year because of the kicker.>>>

      This is very likely, and the clearest sign that the heart of the critique Kanick is offering (which I think goes a little far) has something to it. You don’t ‘develop’ kickers, you don’t need to save the slot for long term deals…kickers contracts are money spent (or not) at the margins to add a 20-50% chance of winning that 1 extra game. That the Browns would rather save a bit more of the league’s largest cap space than add that margin shows what they are expecting. But really, depending on where you think we are here, you could also take the other side and say it’s good they are pretty much just owning up to it and not trying to reapply the 10 year old lipstick on this pig.

      • jimkanicki says:

        SB in NYC this year Bupa, I think that’s what GRR is referring to.


        Too harsh? I don’t know. Could be not harsh enough. Consider: DBryant/Kruger/Mingo cost $75M and #6 pick. Im not convinced that a front seven of Sheard+Groves at OLB +existing line would be much of a drop off and would have saved $72M+pick.

        So take the $72M plus the #6 pick and turn it into AndyLevitre+KeenanLewis in free agency and draft Alec Ogletree in the first round and either Jamie Collins or Gavin Escobar in the second. That is four holes filled with top talent. Instead of one hole filled.

        Of course doing it my way means that Berea wouldn’t be able to trot out the ‘don’t judge us until three years from now’ crap that we hear every other year.

        Sorry to use horseshit so often in this piece. But when you look at these moves and their explanations it’s the word that fits.

        • bupalos says:

          >>>SB in NYC this year Bupa, I think that’s what GRR is referring to.>>>

          Shows how closely I follow superbowl news. For obvious reasons.

          I hated the Mingo pick originally and still don’t like it much, but I’ve come to see it as the biggest swing for the fences they could take, and now find it perfectly defensible. Ogletree+ would be a much “safer” pick I’ll grant, but we may find that having this bright, weird, oversized safety loping around the line and midrange eventually becomes a tactical game changer. So it’s defensible.

          Likewise it isn’t hard to find ways I would have preferred they spend their money– but there is nothing here that isn’t credible to me. They do at least seem to have a coherent vision. I’d agree that this vision doesn’t seem to be built around doing much this year beyond something that would appear at step 2 subsection B on the Mangini Plan. But unless there really is some hidden quality in the terminally complacent Weeden, there really is no reason to shoot beyond that at this point. They can build in complete modules, evolve some actual strengths, and save some powder for the shots that would actually matter. As a bonus we do look like we’re built to beat the Steelers this year, and possibly hasten Big Ben’s demise.

  11. Petefranklin says:

    Would you guys be pissed if Hughes turned out to be a bust? Of course you would. Well the bomb bursting Banner drafted a guy in the 1st round 2011, and who was cut! Allstate baby!!!Don’t worry we cut what that turd(sarcasm if you’re also drunk) Heckart drafted at FB (marecic). We are now in good hands, cue the Big Chuck laugh track. 6-10, PROGRESS BABY! Oh and……………DRRRRRRRINNNNNNNNK!

  12. NeedsFoodBadly says:

    Earlier in the off-season, I preached patience about the cap space, short secondary, etc. Let free agency play out. Let’s see who we get off waivers. Now that’s all said and done, I have to check in and say, you were right, man.

  13. cscales says:

    Jeez, that’ll get you psyched for the season!!!!
    Cannot imagine what you’ll be saying if they happen to be slightly better than “horseshit”.

  14. Luke Seubert says:

    During this past off-season, I was often struck by how much more pessimistic guys like you, Kolonich, and Frowns were compared to myself vis a vis the 2013 Browns’ prospects.

    But as the pre-season came to a close, I steadily became more gloomy. The frenetic turnover of the bottom of the roster the past few days further depressed me. Where was this level of effort for the top half of the roster this whole past off-season? The Browns front office punted on the draft and they punted on free agency, but for the last ten slots on the roster, they go balls-to-the-wall? Well, at least we have a really, really young team and lots of cap space, right? Huzzah! :~(

    Jim, the Greco signing makes “sense” in light of your warnings about the Alex Mack situation. Banner doesn’t want to pay Mack the kind of dollars he will command as the premier center available in free agency. I think the plan is to move Greco to center – recall that he is the backup. This is classic “clever capologist” thinking, rather than real GM thinking.

    I doubt Banner will do much to upgrade the guards next year either. Like Heckert, Banner doesn’t understand the importance of a truly stout offensive line. Both inherited a great left tackle and a very good center, the two hardest positions to fill. Bother dithered and pissed around in building out the rest of the line and adding solid depth. Everybody thinks the Browns have a very fine offensive line because of Thomas, Mack, and Schwartz. But an O-Line is like a chain – it is only as strong as it weakest link. The guard position is weak, hence the Browns offensive line is weak. Meanwhile, Joe Thomas ages yet another year as the season rolls on.

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