Category Archives: Browns

AFC North: Quarter Poll Evaluation

Chris Schisler
Presented By Yogolaada

Week 4 is in the books and one quarter of the season is completed. We will start our quarter poll evaluations with the AFC North.

The pundits spent the offseason debating whether Cincinnati or Baltimore would be crowned AFC North Champion. While no team is out of it this early, it looks like a 2 team race. The Bengals opened the season with a gritty win in Baltimore. For the moment this gives them the advantage. The Ravens have really played well since then.

Pittsburgh is (to steal a line from Denny Green) who we thought they were. They are an average team with Ben Roethlisberger as their only extraordinary component. The Browns are much improved, but at 1-2 sit in last place.

Team Evaluations
1.) Bengals: 3-0
The Bengals are playing good football all the way around. The key for the Bengals is that Dalton plays mistake free football. Dalton has done just that. The Bengals have plenty of talent everything depends on Andy Dalton. So far, Dalton is delivering.

Defensively the Bengals are truly impressive. The thing that I am so wowed by is their ability to get pass rush without sending a bunch of blitzers. They have guys who can win one on one battles with offensive lineman all over the front 7. Spreading them out only allows them to show their freakish athleticism in their linebacking group. The secondary is good but when the front 7 is so dominant it can look great.

2.) Baltimore Ravens: 3-1
The beautiful thing about the Ravens is that they are getting better every week. After stumbling in the opener the Ravens have won three straight. The purple and black dominated the Steelers 26-6. It was an impressive win during a short week and the Ray Rice video aftermath. The Ravens then traveled to Cleveland and squeaked out a win against a reborn Browns team. The Ravens last game was a 38-10 pulverization of the Panthers.

There is a sense that the Ravens are just beginning to take flight. The creative offense is behooving Joe Flacco, who looks like a new quarterback. The Ravens running game has been sensational. Steve Smith Sr., Owen Daniels and Kyle Juszczyk have provided Joe Flacco a much better set of weapons. The Ravens have a top 10 offense after week 4, in a brand new offense.

The defense is a work in progress. It has at moments looked great, awful and everything in between. The positive though is that its not allowing a lot of points. With the Ravens offense putting up the points, and a defense that gives up touchdowns seldom, it’s all good in Baltimore.

3.) Pittsburgh Steelers 2-2
The Steelers blew a huge lead against Cleveland, to win their opener in dramatic fashion. The Steelers were then crushed by Baltimore 26-6. They bounced back by steamrolling over Carolina. The lowly Bucs beat them, after that. The 2-2 start is indicative of the average team that they are.

The Steelers are not bad but they are not great. Ben Roethlisberger is still a dangerous quarterback. Antonio Brown continues to be a star; Le’Veon Bell has become one. The offensive line is still a concern (at least in pass protection) and Ben needs mire weapons.

The defense is far from the dominant group they used to be. The Steelers are starting a youth movement on defense, slowly replacing older players. The secondary is laughable and the front 7 can be run on.

4.) Cleveland Browns: 1-2
Close but no cigar is a phrase Cleveland can relate to. The Browns nearly bested the Steelers. They then beat the New Orleans Saints in the dog-pound. The Ravens slipped past them on a last second field goal and then it was their bye week. The Browns could easily be 3-0 but are in typical Browns fashion, 1-2.

After all the Johnny Football hype, it has been Brian Hoyer, who has impressed under center. Hoyer has exceeded expectations and the Browns have played tough in every game. The defense is strong. If the Browns learn to finish, they will be a tough out in the AFC North.

Manziel, Hoyer: Whose Job Is It Anyway

Chris Schisler

The Cleveland Browns are in a befuddling situation. The Browns were to announce the opening day starting quarterback within the next two days. The problem is neither Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel helped themselves with their Monday night performance. The Browns quarterbacks alternated every two series in the first half and went a staggeringly poor 4/13 passing combined for only 32 yards.

The game started with Brian Hoyer in the shotgun. On the very first play he was surprised by the snap and got sacked by Ryan Kerrigan. Hoyer showed rather disappointing accuracy. He overthrew a should-have-been-easy Touchdown pass and consistently threw behind receivers. He did not inspire confidence. His two completions were fairly routine short passes. Hoyer did not cease any opportunity in the first half.

Johnny Manziel played putridly as well. He threw balls behind his receivers as well. One of his completions was on a bootleg. His really only accurate pass was thrown on the run. Manziel did have an impressive play just in front of the Brown’s 1 yard line. On a play action pass he went from his first read (Gordon) to his second read for an easy completion. Backed up on his own 1 yard line, he showed good poise, reset his feet and fired a decent pass for a critical first down. The Browns got 5 first downs on that drive but that was largely aided by Redskins penalties. There would be no magic for Johnny Football, he was sacked once and got lit up on a couple quarterback runs. The first half must have bruised Manziel’s confidence a bit.

Manziel led Cleveland’s offense on the first drive of the second half. Manziel’s drive included an incomplete pass on an unbalanced scramble, getting bailed out on a roughing the passer penalty, difficulty getting the play called in the huddle (forcing a timeout) and forcing a pass into heavy traffic, failing to convert on a 4th & 2. He had two more completions on the drive but failed to impress.

Johnny Manziel and the Browns next drive finally brought some success. The Browns marched 16 plays and 68 yards down the field for a touchdown. The drive ended with a Manziel TD pass, but it was just a screen pass; the offensive line and running back did all the work. Terrence West was heavily featured on the scoring drive; 9 of the 16 plays were runs. The Browns continued to get first downs from Redskins penalties as well. Manziel was able to get up to 7-16 for 65 yards.

The game was sold as if it were a special Hollywood movie. It was Johnny Football against RG3 in the most overhyped preseason game I can remember. If this were a movie review it may have read like this:

Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel failed to live up to expectations. Hoyer was the most unconvincing character since George Clooney was Batman. Manziel could not capture the magic of his past role at Texas A&M. With poor footwork and accuracy for most of the show he inspired more doubt than hope. Neither of the characters looked to be lead role material this evening.

All joking aside, the Browns have quite a troubling decision to make. The Browns quarterback play is a major concern. Neither candidate is flat out winning the job.

Early Predictions: AFC North

Chris Schisler

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens: 12-4
Reasons: I think the Ravens will have a dominant defense. The Ravens have a now fairly youthful and loaded defensive roster. I also think Gary Kubiak will help Joe Flacco better than ever. The Ravens have more offensive talent around Joe than he has had in his whole career.

Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6
Reasons: This is a very good team. The Bengals however have their flaws. 10-6 will not win the AFC North for a second consecutive season. The Bengals have beaten lesser competition but have struggled against playoff teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-8
Reasons: Its hard to imagine a bad Steelers team but very easy to see an average one. Big Ben gives them some legitimacy however I don’t see a great team around him. The offensive line is still a major concern. The secondary is still a major concern as well.

Cleveland Browns: 6-10
Reasons: Without Gordon, the offense could struggle. Brian Hoyer is capable but nothing special. Johhny Manziel could be special but it will not happen right away. The Browns will be competitive but will lack the firepower needed offensively.

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The Difference Between “Johnny Football” & Josh Gordon

Chris Schisler

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a good time but when you’re an NFL star it is a slippery slope. To be in the National Football League players must be three years away from high school, meaning all professional football players are adults. The same rules and laws apply to NFL stars as anyone else. The difference is the spotlight. If I really screw up it affects my friends and family. If an NFL player makes a mistake it becomes a buzz worthy headline. That is a huge difference. Players who were once beloved, can tarnish their reputations in a split moment. A football player may not be a role model but he is certainly a public figure. There is nothing wrong with partying but there is something wrong in being irresponsible.

I defended Johnny Manziel when the media acted like going to Vegas was an intolerable action. You would have thought the rookie quarterback murdered someone after watching ESPN’s analysts with their judgmental head shaking. Manziel spent a harmless weekend in Vegas, he found no trouble, it should not be a heavily discussed story. How would you feel if your vacation plans were subject to this level of scrutiny? I defended Johnny Manziel because the media scrutiny was ludicrous, however I don’t feel sorry for him. This is a man who steals the show everywhere he goes, “Johnny Football” is a national obsession. Manziel knew the reaction he would garner from his actions.

Josh Gordon, Manziel’s teammate, is a whole different story. Gordon was originally suspended for two games due to violating the substance abuse policy. He continued to smoke marijuana, he failed another drug test and was given the standard punishment of a season long suspension. Gordon appealed and fans went crazy defending the superstar receiver. Their point is marijuana is largely being decriminalized in the United States. They use the pot-head mantra “It’s not a big deal, bro.” There may be nothing wrong with marijuana, in fact many would say there is everything right with the drug. Breaking the rules that you agreed to by signing a contract however almost always ends in your employer disciplining you. Josh Gordon is a special athlete, but nobody is immune to rules and laws. This is especially true of behaviors which are monitored closely your employer. If you still feel the urge to support Gordon’s appeal, what do you say about his DWI arrest?

Johnny Manziel is immature, but he does not get into trouble. Josh Gordon is immature and keeps finding trouble. Johnny Manziel takes over SportsCenter. Its annoying. However we cannot clump Manziel in with fellow Brown, Josh Gordon. Gordon has an utter disrespect for the rules and continuously brings trouble upon himself. While Manziel invites his critics to sound off with his antics; what did he do wrong?

Fatal Flaws AFC North

When the regular season begins the hunt for playoff spots begins. When the playoffs begin the strongest 12 remain to fight for the Lombardi Trophy. Only one team walks away from the football season a champion. 31 teams will fail to reach their goal of a championship. Every team has a fatal flaw, a weakness that gets them eliminated somewhere along the way. Every team is flawed, and any flaw can be fatal to their season. The Super Bowl champion overcomes their flaws to win it all because they are most suited win their playoff match ups. Lets examine the fatal flaws each team has, that may prevent their Super Bowl glory.

We continue this examination of every NFL team with the AFC North

Baltimore Ravens
Fatal Flaw: Putting It All Together
Explanation: There are a lot of new pieces to the Ravens construction for the upcoming season. The entire offensive coaching staff has been changed, with the exception of Juan Castillo as the line coach. The Ravens have a few new offensive players in Steve Smith, Owen Daniels and Crockett Gillmore. A handful of expected starters are rookies or are relatively inexperienced Terrence Brooks, CJ Mosley, Timmy Jernigan and Ricky Wagner. On paper the Ravens made a lot of improvements. It may not come together so smoothly in the beginning of the season. If the Ravens gel they will be great. If the Ravens can’t it could be a long season or at least a disappointing end.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Fatal Flaw: Is There Enough Talent Around Big Ben?
Explanation: Ben Roethlisberger gives Pittsburgh a shot in every game they play; he is that good of a quarterback. After missing the playoffs two years in a row you have to wonder if he needs more help. Antonio Brown and Heath Miller are both strong receiving options. However after that the arsenal of pass catchers is questionable at best. Markus Wheaton is now the likely number two receiver after Pittsburgh lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery to free agency. Wheaton, entering his sophomore season, has 6 receptions as a Steeler. The offensive line is still a huge concern as well. Big Ben has to be great for this team to win; it cannot survive if he does not bring his A game.

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Cincinnati Bengals
Fatal Flaw: Andy Dalton in Crunch Time
Explanation: I am sorry, but I am not filled with confidence in Andy Dalton. Dalton is the single biggest reason a talented Bengals team was embarrassed in the playoffs, at home against the Chargers. Andy Dalton is not a clutch quarterback. He is good, never great and is often bailed out by AJ Green. He has yet to win a playoff game in 3 chances. He has thrown 6 interceptions in the playoffs. Each playoff season is the same story. Dalton can’t get a good team over the hump.

Cleveland Browns
Fatal Flaw: QB Controversy
Explanation: The Browns have a decent roster but are a bit more than a quarterback from being successful. Brian Hoyer gives the Browns the best chance to win now. However if the team struggles with Hoyer the pressure to bring in Johnny Manziel will be ever present. If Manziel is not ready, and they play him it can only go poorly. Manziel could be amazing but it will take time.

Season Preview AFC North

The AFC North is consistently one of the toughest divisions in football. The division is known for its bitter rivalries and hard hitting defense. The Ravens-Steelers rivalry has become one of the most intense rivalries in professional sports. The Baltimore Ravens have won 2 of the last three division championships but missed the playoffs in 2013. Cincinnati won the division but lost an embarrassing home playoff game to San Diego. Pittsburgh was 8-8 last year and Cleveland finished last as usual. It looks to be anyone’s division as 2014 approaches. The Bengals are the division champions until someone knocks them off.

The Baltimore Ravens are primed to become contenders again. Coming out of the draft the Ravens have only one area of real concern, the right tackle position. The Ravens got an upgrade at center, making a trade for Jeremy Zuttah with the Buccaneers. With a healthy Kelechi Osemele at guard it is up to either Ricky Wagner or undrafted free agent James Hurst to step up at right tackle. The Ravens fatal flaw in 2013 was their offensive line. In 2014 it should be greatly improved.

The Ravens signed Steve Smith in free agency. Smith will be a difference maker. Last year teams could take away Torrey Smith and the Ravens were out if options. You can’t double team both Smiths, and you can’t forget about Dennis Pitta. The Ravens look to run a lot of two tight end sets. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has a track record of great running games that speaks for itself. Expect bigger and better things offensively for Baltimore.

Defensively the Ravens also have high expectations. Rookies CJ Mosley and Terrance Brooks should make an impact on day 1. Brent Urban and Timmy Jernigan add to a strong defensive line. The Ravens finished 12th in defense last year; I think they are capable of a top 10 performance in 2014.

I expect Baltimore to win the division with a record of 12-4. Joe Flacco has a legitimate offensive coordinator and a good group of weapons. He has no excuses in 2014 and he has won with less.

The Bengals have one of the best rosters in football. Despite losing defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, the Bengals defense is strong. They have a great group of playmakers on offense AJ Green, Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert just to name a few. The question is how far can Andy Dalton take them.

The Bengals were practically given their division title last season. Baltimore and Pittsburgh were dysfunctional and the Browns…well they were the Browns. If Baltimore regains the stride that won them the division title in 2011-2012 the Bengals are in trouble. Andy Dalton traditionally plays poorly. Dalton on most days would have given the Ravens the game with 2 interceptions in week 17. The 2013 Ravens were too stubbornly bad to take advantage. The Bengals are a good team that should be respected but not feared. Marvin Lewis’s club is 0-5 in the postseason for a reason. Cincinnati will go 10-6 and be a wild card team, thats my prediction.

The Cleveland Browns got a lot more interesting in the NFL Draft, getting their franchise quarterback, Johnny Manziel. The Browns probably won’t have a lot of patience and Manziel may get on the field early. Its hard to be patient after years of losing. Fans expect Manziel to save them, only time will tell if he can. Terrance West was a good draft pick for Cleveland. He adds a power running game to take pressure off the quarterback. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are the main weapons for Cleveland’s passing attack. The offense is the question, we know they have a good defense. I think the Browns will be competitive, they are heading in the right direction. However they are a year or two away from making some real noise.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and could be looking at a third. They may have a special duo in Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin but they do not have a special team. Roethlisberger was the only reason Pittsburgh managed 8 wins last season. The defense is not what it once was and neither are some its aging starsThe Steelers may be capable of a decent year, but they are behind Cincinatti and Baltimore.

In the end it comes down to the Ravens and the Bengals. The Ravens will take steps offensively and Joe Flacco will out duel Andy Dalton. The Ravens and Bengals meet week one. Both teams will look to make a statement in the opener.

Rookie QB’s: Sit em or Start em

-Chris Schisler

When NFL teams draft a quarterback of the future, the question is when do they let the future begin. Starting an unpolished rookie risks making him spoiled goods. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings as well as the Oakland Raiders all believe they have just found their savior under center. It is an exciting time in these 4 NFL cities. The decision they make could either pay off big time or haunt them for years to come.

It used to be common for teams to give their rookie QB time to develop. Things started to change in 2008, when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, led their teams to the playoffs in their rookie season.Teams began to start their quarterbacks right away.

In 2009, the New York Jets started Mark Sanchez right away. The Jets went to back to back AFC championships. The Jets were winning but Sanchez was a very flawed passer. The Jets surrounded their quarterback with a pound it out running offense & the comfort of a dominant defense. The Jets kept believing that Sanchez could be a star, ignoring his shortcomings. Sanchez regressed to a butt fumbling level and the Jets replaced him. The Jets came into the 2013 season at square one with Geno Smith. Geno Smith did so poorly in his rookie season that the Jets signed Michael Vick this offseason.

The league did not realize that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were exceptions to the rule. Teams looked for QB’s to get on the field training; they rationalized it by saying “what’s he going to learn on the bench?” There are some success stories such as Cam Newton, Russell Wilson & Andrew Luck but there are just as many Blaine Gabbert like nightmares.

There are less people qualified to be an NFL quarterback than any other job in the world. The physical and cerebral workload is incredible. The quarterback is the leader of the team and ideally is the most football obsessed amongst the players. They get all the credit in victory and all the blame in defeat. Think about the teams that win; they all have good QB’s. Teams have to be picky about who they put under center. If a rookie quarterback is going to start he has to earn it and be capable. Many teams draft a quarterback with a high ceiling in terms of potential and ruin him on the field too early. Everyone looks at the Flacco’s and Matt Ryan’s of the world. Why does nobody look at Aaron Rodgers. He had to sit behind Brett Favre; that worked out pretty good.

No matter how you slice it a rookie quarterback is a project. This years crop is a great example. Blake Bortles has a prototypical QB body and supreme arm talent. That said his footwork is messy at best, this affects the timing and accuracy of his passes-he struggles to read a defense when he is in the pocket and us only comfortable when rolling out. Johnny Football is not without his flaws. He has a lazy drop back, makes bad reads-uses his legs to get him out of the trouble he got himself in and forces late throws in the red zone. These two quarterbacks can make every throw and have an amazing amount of talent but I don’t think either one is ready. It’s not the ability, its the lack of fundamentals in their game.

The Browns would be best suited to sit their rookie passer on the sideline. They must remember the future is what is important. Manziel needs to develop a disciplined approach to football. If he tries the headless chicken-make magic out of nothing routine in the NFL he may get himself killed. Brian Hoyer deserves a chance to at least prove he can start in the league. The future is important to Cleveland they have been bad for a long time.

The Jaguars don’t expect to start Blake Bortles this year. Sure he could win the job, but they will only play him if he is truly ready. This is an organization that went through growing pains with Blaine Gabbert; they have learned from this experience. Chad Henne showed flashes of decent play last season. The Jaguars don’t need to rush things, they don’t expect to be great over night. They are rebuilding not rehashing their past mistakes.

Teddy Bridgewater however could start on day one. Bridgewater ran a savvy offense at Louisville like a well oiled machine. I had him rated as the best quarterback prospect; he was a total steal as the first rounds last pick. Bridgewater read defenses like a pro in college. Like Bortles and Manziel, Bridgewater has the ability to beat you with his legs. However Teddy uses his legs to extend plays, keeping his eyes downfield remaining a passer. Its funny that Bortles gets compared to Ben Roethlisberger based on size. Teddy Bridgewater plays the game mostly comparable to Roethlisberger; extending plays and connecting on deep bombs. The Vikings got a guy who is ready & they have no time to waste. Adrian Peterson is human so he won’t last forever.

I am not high on Derrick Carr, I never really have been. He has a tremendous arm, the physical tools are there. I can’t help but see Kyle Boller in Derrick Carr. I think it is so easy to fall in love with a cannon arm that we overlook signs of trouble. for Oakland’s sake I am wrong. I think Carr was very sheltered at Fresno State. The QB friendly spread offense and lower level of competition concerns me. His mechanics concern me. Getting blown out by USC in Fresno State’s Bowl game concerns me. Carr has the physical tools but I am not convinced he can do it at the next level. I don’t foresee patience for the Oakland Raiders. Matt Schuab is a shell of hus former self and a mere placeholder at quarterback. I predicted Carr to be a bust- an opinion many people have bashed me for. Now that I know he is a Raider, I am even more convinced.

There is no right or wrong approaches here. Everything depends on the situation. A team should absolutely start a rookie if he has earned it and is ready. Sitting your QB does not insure success. However starting him before he is ready is a good way to make him spoiled goods. Its a slippery slope that the respective NFL head coaches must be aware of.

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