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In our friendly Cheddar Bay Pickstravaganza, we (or at least I) tend to tie ourselves up in knots with research to validate the pick of the week. In thinking about tonight’s Bills at Browns game, it occurred to me that there’s no team I have more research on than the Browns. So if I’m thinking the Browns a good bet to beat the Bills by more than four points, I gotta trust my eyes. It’s unlikely that I’ll be as expert in the BallSt +5.5 @UVA matchup. I can’t worry that a lot of other guys in this group have the same pick tonight.
So let’s take this on. Here’s why I like the Browns tonight.
1. Still an unknown team (nationally).
Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon might have some cachet in fantasy circles. But Craig Robertson and Buster Skrine and Mitchell Schwartz are unknowns. Do you think Phil Taylor or Alex Mack or Jabaal Sheard are known quantities outside of NEO? No way. To the rest of the country, the Browns are Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. Maybe there’s some respect for the FAs Bryant and Kruger but not so much for the talent on the team coming into the season. As a result, the Browns are good value. For now.
But while we’re on the subject of Joe Haden…
2. Joe Haden has moved to elite.
It’s one thing to look at some stats and say shit like ‘Oh wow, AJ Green only had 51 yards on seven catches so Haden must be really good.’ And while that’s true, what I’m seeing is more. I’m seeing him daring QB just to try to throw his way. Hell, I’m seeing him daring teams to RUN his way… his tackling has been intimidating this year. But what I’m REALLY seeing is him inspiring his mates in the secondary. They’re ALL playing strong; they’re all bringing Haden swag to their games. The weakest part of the Browns roster is playing great and to my eye, it’s due to Haden’s play and his leadership.
3. Competent QB play is, in fact, good-to-very-good QB play.
I well remember when Drew Bledsoe was knocked out of the game in 2001 and Tom Brady took his place. Bledsoe had the gun and the pedigree but was prone to staring down receivers and jamming throws were they shouldn’t go. Bad turnovers. Did not inspire confidence in teammates and so not a great leader. Enter Brady and he didn’t do anything spectacularly well. Just ran through his progressions quickly and pretty much always found the open receiver. Got rid of the quickly and accurately. Poised in the pocket. There weren’t any Manning-esque line-audible shenanigans then. Brady was simply a competent practitioner of quarterbacking. That’s what I’m seeing in Hoyer so far. Nothing flashy but poised and competent. Competent QB-ing is vastly underrated in my opinion. (more…)
I got nothing. Not right now.
Is Andy Dalton a bag of suck? Oh sure, you bet; but now’s not the time. Have I said that Buster Skrine plays good positionally and my greivance is with his size? Yeah* sure, but who cares… cover your ass posts are boring in general and particularly self-centered if done after such a glorious weekend. Squeeze in just a smidgeon of juxtaposition between Dolan’s off-season and Haslam’s…? Oh HELL NO!
No, no, no. Not now.
Because it’s lovely lovely lovely to have a solid Buckeye win at home over a top team; a Browns domination of a perennial playoff team; and the Indians blowing everyone’s mind and getting into the playoffs.
Let’s offer some comment on all three.
1. The Buckeyes.
I sure have some solid memories of national spotlight games in Columbus not going according to plan. That wasn’t the case Saturday. Braxton Miller looks poised running an offense who just won their line of scrimmage battle all night. On defense, who knew Joel Stave had that game in him? The Badgers were just good enough to provide a lot of coachable moments for Coach Meyer and none to soon with the at Northwestern game coming up. The Bucks look good — but not great — and certainly shouldn’t be overconfident going to Evanston.
2. The Browns.
First off, I have to say that watching in a bar is sub-optimal. But my vibe from the game was that it never felt like the Browns weren’t dominating.
Err.. I can’t not write SOMETHING about Jay Gruden’s odd non-use of Gio Bernard and bizarre fixation on five yard under patterns for AJ Green. How a team can have Gresham, Eifert, Green, Sanu matched up against the shortest secondary and not go up top is .. it’s a poser, I’ll tell ya. If I do the Bengals’ blame pie, I’m settling in of equal parts Gruden weak OC, Dalton-bag-o-suck, and Browns defense that good.
Wait a sec, let me kick up the Browns’ defense credit from 33% to 50%. Because Joe Haden’s performance on AJ Green a COUPLED WITH just the right amount of smack talk was so money. I can’t think of a cornerback I’d rather have. Revis? Peterson? Sherman? Nope, I’m good with Haden thanks.
And Hoyer, yes you can be quarterback. You executed the best (only?) screen pass by the Browns in the last 20 years. I actually don’t think that’s an exaggeration. Hoyer is proof that ‘good’ QB is meaningless in the face of ‘smart’ QB or at least ‘competent enough to remember he has a tall tight end who can win jump balls’ QB. Jordan Cameron… didn’t see that one coming either.
3. The Indians.
Like many of you, I lost interest after that Tigers series in August and in particular after that brutal blown
save shutout in the first game. (Cripes, it’s painful even to look at that boxscore.) The responsible blogger/journo in me wants to remind you of some stat on how the Tribe does against good teams. But the fan in me won’t even google it and says in boldface: NINETY-TWO WINS. 15-2 to close the season. Yessir, good things can happen when try to win now and that’s nuf ‘ced on that for now too.
Salazar is a revelation. In fact, the rotation looks like a real rotation with Ubaldo-Kazmir-Kluber-Salazar and what’s up with Masterson? Is he our closer now? See? I really haven’t been paying attention closely enough. The games are on in the background and my ears perk when personal fave Michael Brantley does something awesome.
Looking for at least one post that doesn’t tell you how fucking smart Joe Banner is? Just one write-up that doesn’t tell you, Mr. Browns Fan, that you’re a petulant child for expecting a competitive team this year? One piece that calls bullshit on the Banner regime’s performance to date? And what in the hell does the Carmen Policy era have to do with any of this???
Look no further.
Three items today and I’ll sum up the Kanick take up top for you:
- Trent Richardson trade. (Yes, it’s good value. Don’t care. You punted the season and didn’t have to.)
- National types and local schoolmarms telling us a 1-15 season is smart. (General disdain for media lapdogs telling every Browns fan who expected a season of improvement that we’re idiots for being pissed.)
- Since when did a high draft pick become a guarantee of team success? (The myth of magical first round QBs exposed.)
Richardson trade *is* good value. But that’s not the problem here.
I actually think Browns got good value on T-Rich. I haven’t been a Richardson fan and I’ve pointed out why on several occasions. Basically, I think he runs soft. Got no Beast Mode. Stops before contact. Been like this since his Bama days. See below and below that.
So I’m ok with the value received in return for the trade. I would also say the Browns got good value on their auction of 2012 draft picks. Browns also have an efficient payroll structure as demonstrated by their $25M in cap space.
None of these “good management practices” add up to even an attempt at winning football in 2013 and thus these “smart moves” amount to a steaming crap in the middle of the Munilot. All of these moves say, “We assume you will continue coming to losing games because we’ve improved the ‘fan experience.'” Banner don’t care if he wins this year, next year, or the year after that. (Has anyone heard a timetable or a tangible goal for this organization?) All I read is that he has to get ‘his own guys’ on the roster like that’s normal. (He’s no Don Shula.*) To expect him to win Heckert’s guys is unreasonable.
I say bullshit.
Don’t think the Browns could have competed this year? Really?
You know how this could have played out in 2013? If Berea actually wanted to win this year? If Berea actually gave a more fucks about their fans than their god damn office furniture and the murals, my god, the murals?
Because this is a formula that was available to Banner thanks to the pristine salary structure bequeathed him by Tom Heckert. It goes like this:
- Do not dump 4-3 defense;
- Sign CB Keenan Lewis;
- Sign OG Andy Levitre;
- Sign TE Dustin Keller;
- Trade back with Rams;
- Draft QB EJ Manuel;
- Draft OLB Jamie Collins;
- Draft OG Brian Winters;
- Draft FB Kyle Juszczyk;
- Draft FS Bacarri Rambo;
- Extend C Alex Mack.
You had six holes (CB2, OG, LB, FS, TE, FB), they’re now all patched. You’ve got your o-line set for the next five years. You’ve got two lock-down CBs. You’ve added speed at LB. You’ve got a playmaking TE. And you’ve got your QB.
Tell me that’s not a playoff team.
How hard was that? (more…)
I doubt I’ll be in the business of previewing games but in this case, it seems like a lot of points are being missed. Since it’s not fun or fair to point these out after the game here are the factors the will lead to an easy Ravens -7 cover. (And super easy current Ravens -6.5.)
1. Chris Canty versus ONeill Cousins.
It’s amazing what you can do when you can sign 30 year olds, when you don’t have to save salary for some unknown reason and when you don’t paint yourself into a corner with rigid get younger edicts. The Ravens spent $2.8M in guaranteed money for a guy good enough to start 16 games for a SB winner two years ago. He’s 30. He’ll be occupying ONiel Cousins as a 34 DE. Canty got a +2.3 rating from PFF last week; Cousins . And this likely leaves Mitchell Schwartz without help against Terrell Suggs. Does any of this sound familiar? (PS, Oniel Cousins is 29. IRONY!)
Sidebar notes re: Ravens’ defense
1a. Ravens defense depleted myth.
Ravens lost a lot of players on defense. Yes I know this, see graphic at right. It was created for my written-not-published “Ozzie Newsome, not a genius” piece. Why didn’t I publish it? Why didn’t I share the time and toil that included making funny Wile E. Coyote graphics? It’s that part with the green boxes where Ozzie pulled two studs and a decent piece part out of his ass to patch holes in his defense.
Do recall that the Ravens were in cap hell after their Super Bowl win. Hard to kill them for that because, well, Super Bowl win. This is why Boldin is gone. Repeat: the salary cap hell precipitated by winning the Super Bowl and thus needing to overpay to sign now Super Bowl Winning Joe Flacco created a problem. In March, I thought it would be hell for them now I don’t think so.
1b. Kruger was the most expendable of all the Ravens’ FA losses.
We all know we were bidding against ourselves for Kruger right? I know Banner was at risk of breaking his arm patting himself on the back for this signing, but Kruger –he of six starts in his career– was backed up by the Ravens’ top pick in 2012, Courtney Upshaw. He was never part of the plan for the Ravens.
2. Ravens have a fullback.
Much has been made of the Browns’ front seven and yes it’s pretty to look at. But the Ravens have multiyear all-pro Vonta Leach back and he’s playing the dinosaur fullback position.
Lol, don’t the Ravens know that position is obsolete? Lol, Maroons!
Well I guess we’ll see if Ozzie and Jim Harbaugh know what they’re doing by keeping that position funded. You know because it’s like they didn’t just win a Super Bowl. But in considering fullbacks, they don’t win three all-pros for ‘rush yards gained.’ Fullbacks win all-pros for blocking, either lead blocking for the feature back or picking up blitzes and protecting their QB. Oh wait a sec,,, doesn’t the Browns’ DC have a thing about attacking, blitzing aggressive, something something? Yes, I’m sure a read a report about the Browns front seven and blitzing. But haven’t read too much about how having the best blocking fullback in the NFL might blunt that attack. A rare miss by Cleveland sports media. (more…)
This kid Andrew Luck is incredible. Don’t miss it by silly debates. He’s the best quarterback from last year’s draft class and he is ready to emerge as one of the league’s best signal callers, period. Before you know it, he will be the league’s most valuable player as well.
And honestly, it’s not too far fetched to imagine that happening as soon as 2013.
I agree with you Stampede Blue.
I got a chance to listen to the Simmons AFC Over-Under podcast with his random-dude-buddy guest.
(Browns fans: when the national concensus is moving as a group in favor of the Browns and is moving as a group against the Steelers, how does that usually work out? .. Exactly.)
Anyhoozles, there were several other parts of their analysis that I found sub-par. But none moreso that the Pythogorean theory of football-predicting applied to the Colts. These two went through maybe five minutes on the Barnwell stat-boy data and out of division match-ups and blah blah blah and in their whole “UNDER 8.5 WINS” speil on the Colts, they forgot to mention one thing.
How on earth does one evaluate the Colts and not account for Andrew Luck? You want to hang your hat on last year’s point differential? REALLY? Gonna do the pythorgoen jive to quantify ‘lucky wins?’ Is the term ‘regress to mean’ supposed to overwhelm?
Here’s Barnwell rationale for calling an team that went 11-5, made playoffs, with a rookie QB a “team in decline:”
2012 Record: 11-5
Pythagorean Wins: 7.2 (overperformed by 3.8 wins, luckiest in league)
Record in Games Decided by Seven Points or Fewer: 9-1 (0.900, second-best in league)
Strength of Schedule: 0.435 (easiest in league)
Turnover Margin: Minus-12 (26th in league)
2013 Out-of-Division Schedule: AFC West, NFC West, vs. Dolphins, at Bengals
I already wrote about the Colts and their chances of succeeding in 2013 earlier in our season preview; you can read that article here. Let me say this much: The Colts are going to start 2-0. They host the Raiders and the Dolphins during the first two weeks of the 2013 campaign, and those are games that the Colts are exceedingly unlikely to drop to inferior competition. That will get the fans going, but remember that their subsequent six games include trips to San Francisco and Houston and drop-ins from Seattle and Denver. If the Colts are competitive in those four games, we’ll all have a good idea that they’re a team to be reckoned with in 2013.
Best-Case Scenario: Andrew Luck overcomes all concepts of regression.
Worst-Case Scenario: Andrew Luck is overcome by all concepts of regression.
The Colts are 9-1 in close games and the deduction is that they’re lucky? Not that their rookie QB is extra-special? Oh-kay. Barnwell talks about regression but fails to realize that Andrew Luck has not regressed since he won the starter role as a freshman at Stanford four years ago. His analysis simply ignores that the Colts might just have the best quarterback of the generation.
Not like you couldn’t see it coming.
When Jim Harbaugh took over the Stanford team in 2007 they were coming off a 1-11 season. Harbaugh’s first year, 4-8; next year 5-7. Enter Luck. Here’s the progression of Stanford’s offense in the Harbaugh years:
- 2007: 4-8, 19.6 pts/gm (107th in country);
- 2008: 5-7, 26.2 pts/gm (54th);
- 2009: Luck wins job as [redshirt] freshman. 8-5, 35.5 pts/gm (12th). Lose Sun Bowl (Luck injured, doesn’t play.);
- 2010: 12-1, 40.3 pts/gm (9th). Win Orange Bowl 40-12 over VaTech. Ranked 4th;
- 2011: (Harbaugh leaves, David Shaw now HC.) 11-2, 43.2 pts/gm (7th). Lose Fiesta Bowl. End ranked 7th.
So, it’s not like he didn’t have a .795 winning percentage. Not like he didn’t grow the offense from 26 to 43 points a game. QB rating? 162.8 over three years with 9430 yards and 82 TDs.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
The structure of the preview is this:
Just had a few notes and they’re a little too big to tweet. Nothing happy, I’m afraid.
1. TRich still stops.
This was something we noticed from watching him at Alabama and last year too (mute before click). I’m moving past benefit of doubt, e.g., “he’s setting up his blockers.” T-Rich doesn’t attack holes. There is zero Marshawn Lynch in his game. No beast mode.
In this clip you’ll see him hesitate before a d-back attempts to tackle him. HE HIMSELF STOPS HIS MOMENTUM. This makes it 1000x easier for a smaller man to bring him down.
When you’re Trent’s size, your size/inertia/momenta/strength are why you were drafted third overall; not your elusiveness. Is there no coach in Berea to speak with him about this?
2. Attacking aggressive 3-4 defense not scary to good QB.
We’ve covered how good QBs exploit the cheats inheriting in a blitz-based defense.
What separates … elite quarterbacks from the pack?… It’s their reads, both defenses and progressions. They’ll recognize a blitz and punish it. You give them time to go through their progression, they’ll find the open guy. The thinking of ‘we can disguise where the rush is coming from with a 3-4′ is questionable. Most teams play a 3-4; all QBs have seen it, good QBs can read it.
While Luck felt some heat from the Browns’ pressure, I wouldn’t say it stopped Luck from getting the ball where he wanted it. (Eleven targets to Reggie Wayne in first half.)
3. Defense doesnt get to pick CB matchups: TY Hilton drew Joe Haden while Buster Skine got Reggie Wayne.
I’ve seen a lot comments about how Haden is CB1 and so CB2 doesn’t matter that much. Or how Skrine can just cover slot guys. The fallacy here is that OCs are just going to go along with that. Here’s the deal: OCs watch hours of film looking exactly for an ah-ha moment and then go to town. The Browns’ corps of 5-9 CB2s is a major ah-hah moment for opposing OCs. (Eleven targets to Reggie Wayne in first half.)
4. Alec Ogletree having great game for Rams in Denver.
Every time I look up he’s breaking up a pass or returning a fumble for a TD. His first half line (against the Broncos/Manning mind you): 6 Tackles, 4 Solos, 2 TFL, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 INT, and 1 TD.