Posted on: September 27, 2009 5:54 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2009 6:21 pm

Week 3: Trouble in Paradise?

Throughout the offseason, Eric Mangini could not decide on a quarterback.
Three weeks into the regular season, nothing has changed.

Joe Flacco proved unflappable, the Ravens' defense dominated, and Baltimore embarrassed the Browns: 34-3.

Defensively, the Browns were dominated physically from the word go.

Baltimore's offensive line had no problem picking up Rob Ryan's blitzes. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice found running room early and often, and that allowed Joe Flacco to carve up a Browns secondary which spent most of the day on their heels. Cornerbacks Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright played well for the most part, but Flacco was afforded too much time against the Browns' zone coverages.

Offensively, anything that could have gone wrong - went wrong.

Brady Quinn started the game by doing exactly what we've seen him do for the past two weeks. Heading into today's game, Baltimore knew Quinn would play conservatively. Dominique Foxworth would eventually take advantage of this - intercepting Quinn's checkdown pass to Edwards. Under Quinn, the offense struggled to move the football and they finished the half without scoring any points.

Eric Mangini had seen enough and pulled his starting quarterback in favor of Derek Anderson.

He didn't fare much better.

Coming off the bench cold and trailing the Ravens by 20, Derek Anderson struggled. Anderson looked inaccurate and uncomfortable to begin the second half. He forced a few ill-advised passes into coverage - three of which resulted in interceptions.

Regardless of who lined up behind center, the Cleveland Browns seemed overwhelmed on the road against a dominant Ravens' offense.

Eric Mangini must find a way to rally this team together, because this has a look of an organization in disarray.

Ten From the Gentledawg

10. Dave Zastudil had a great game.

If there is anything we can take from this game, it is the continued outstanding play of the Cleveland Browns special teams. Cleveland's offensive futility meant a busy day for punter Dave Zastudil, and he answered the call. Zastudil and the Browns kick coverage unit averaged 51.0 yards per punt - an outstanding average considering the Browns punted 5 times today. Cleveland will have to rely on field position all season, and thankfully they have one of the most consistent punters in the game.

9. Eric Mangini is in danger of losing this team.

Earlier today, an ESPN report surfaced that several Browns players have filed grievances against Mangini for steep fines he's levied for non-football offenses. At least two of these grievances stem from an incident which occurred when Mangini fined a player $1,701 for allegedly stealing a water bottle. With the Browns' poor performance on the field and Mangini's heavy-handed coaching style, I wouldn't be surprised if that grumbling in the locker room becomes a little bit louder. Without results the show for it, Mangini's hard-nosed, authoritative personality simply does not work.

8. The Browns have major issues on defense.

Through the first two weeks of the regular season, I gave the Browns the benefit of the doubt in assessing them as a defense. After witnessing Joe Flacco and the Ravens have their way with the team, it is clear the Browns have major issues on that side of the ball. The most surprising part of this afternoon's loss was the play of the interior linebackers. Eric Barton struggled in coverage and D'Qwell Jackson did not have a good game. Baltimore spread the Browns out with three wide receiver sets, and Cleveland was unable to stop them.

7. Under Derek Anderson, the Browns showed signs of life.

Say what you will about the interceptions, but Derek Anderson was able to move the football down the field. At one point, Anderson took the Browns from the Cleveland 22 all the way to the Baltimore 6. Derek Anderson worked all three wide receivers into the game, and forced the aggressive Ravens to defend the entire field. He wasn't perfect, but Anderson took shots down the field and sustained a long drive which resulted in the lone Browns points of the day.

6. Jerome Harrison is an upgrade over Jamal Lewis.

Heading into the game, I thought the Jamal Lewis injury was a blessing in disguise for the Browns. Harrison has the quickness and vision you'd like to see from a feature back, and he was able to compensate for the lack of a consistent passing game. Harrison never saw playing time due to his inconsistency in pass protection, but there were no signs of that today. Although the score took the Browns out of running situations, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should be pleased in what he's seen today from Harrison.

5. The Baltimore Ravens are one of the most complete teams in the NFL.

The Browns were not competitive today, and the Ravens were a big part of that. The gap in talent between these two teams was too much, and that showed up in the final score. Baltimore will be one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL this year.  The Browns performed poorly today, and it should stand for something that they played one of the best teams in the NFL on the road. The Ravens are a division opponent, so they'll eventually need to find a way to beat this team.

4. Billy Cundiff filled in admirably for Phil Dawson.

While he did not attempt any difficult field goals, Cundiff did exactly what you'd expect of a backup kicker. The 29-year-old Cundiff drilled the second-half kickoff deep into the end zone not once, but twice - demonstrating the strong leg you'd like to see from a kicker. Dawson should be ready to go next week, but it's certainly good to know the Browns have a seemingly capable kicker to handle the duties should something happen to Phil Dawson.

3. The Browns were beaten physically and mentally.

You could see it in their body language. The Browns had the look of a defeated football team, and some players may have already given up on the year. Shaun Rogers drew a personal foul after mixing it up with a Baltimore offensive guard. His reaction to the penalty was one of indifference than disgust. There were lots of hands on hips today. There was no passion. I have never seen a more worn out football team than this one at the end of a game.

2. The winless Browns might be the worst team in the NFL.

The Detroit Lions pulled off a remarkable victory against a talented Washington team at home. The Raiders have pushed the Chargers to the limit, and the Rams can actually score points on offense. Who is worse than the Browns? The defense has struggled, the offense is inept, and the leaders on this team are far too inconsistent for sustained success. The Cleveland Browns may be the worst team in the NFL.

1. One of these quarterbacks needs to go...and fast.

Benching Brady Quinn halfway through the game forces Eric Mangini to make an important decision. With all of the turmoil surrounding the team, a quarterback controversy will not help unify the lockerroom and maintain offensive continuity. The reality of the situation is this - both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are imperfect quarterbacks. Mangini must decide which passer he prefers, and then trade or release the other. Both quarterbacks seem to be playing scared in fear of their jobs. The only way to correct that is to demonstrate confidence in whichever passer he selects.

Posted on: September 25, 2009 3:46 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2009 4:53 pm

Having Sex Improves Athletic Performance

It's no secret Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini is always looking for some kind of edge against his opponents. Whether it's the nuances of a formation or the intricasies of a route, Mangini's team spends countless hours watching film in preparation for Sunday.

In order to truly boost performance, Mangini may want his team to study a different kind of film before game day.

A recent study based in India claims having sex may improve performance among professional athletes.

"From a physiological perspective, having sex increases testosterone levels, which cause an increase in strength, energy, aggression and competitiveness," the study said.

"Conversely, not having sex for a period of a few months causes a significant drop in testosterone levels in both males and females, with the corresponding passiveness and decrease in aggression."

The study cites University of Cape Town professor of sports science Tim Noakes as a reference.

"If you want sex but do not have someone to share it with," the study continues.

"One option is to go solo whilst imagining you have a partner, or a few partners, who are as beautiful as you wish to imagine."

Although unaware of this particular study, Eric Mangini has stressed the importance of maintaining a competitive advantage throughout the offseason.

We're trying to do everything that we can do to win the game on Sunday," Mangini said earlier this month.

"I think everybody's excited about doing that."


Have Sex to Play Better, India Star Urged.

(Published 9/23/09 and accessed 9/25/09.)

Cleveland Browns: Eric Mangini Press Conference 9/9/09

(Published 9/9/09 and accessed 9/25/09)

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 24, 2009 4:17 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2009 8:51 pm

Week 2 Power Rankings: Holier Than Thou Art

I can think of only three things in the world that mean less than September power rankings: Cosmopolitan Magazine, the T.O. Show, and the Washington Nationals.

Despite this, I bravely forge along in my quest to rank all 32 NFL teams from strongest to...umm...the Detroit Lions.

Not surprisingly (at least to me) come the new bad boys of the NFL: the New Orleans Saints.

Can anyone even slow down that offense?

A heathy Pittsburgh team certainly has a chance. The Jets and Ravens do too, however I doubt either offense could keep up. Until a team proves they can put everything together, the Saints will take their place as the most dominant team in the NFL.

The bottom of the rankings is littered with the usual suspects with the exception of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

They just don't seem to have enough firepower on offense or defense to match up against anyone. The passing game is suspect with David Garrard at the helm. Maurice Jones-Drew is an explosive talent, but one 5'6" running back can only do so much to carry the load.

Jack Del Rio's squad better start winning games soon. There is no one left to blame but Del Rio himself, so he must produce results - and fast.

1. Sean Peyton has created a monster. Drew Brees and the high-flying Saints have one of the most potent offenses we’ve seen in years, and that lands them a top these rankings. Defensively, the Saints are better than many give them credit for. By the end of the season, Scott Shanle will become a household name. That defense should be able to hold up their end of the bargain, and that should mean a deep playoff run for New Orleans.

2.   A three-point loss to the Bears on the road means nothing . Jeff Reed has kicked this team to Super Bowls before, and he’ll continue to do so in 2009. Pittsburgh may have lost Troy Polamalu, but they haven’t lost any aggressiveness or intensity. Just ask Greg Olsen. For this team to compete, Ben Roethlisberger will be asked to win the game with his arm. Cincinnati will be a good test.

3. Much like the Steelers, the Giants seem to be winning games backwards. Instead of running to set up the pass, New York seems to be throwing to set up the run. I’m not sure how long they can keep that up. After narrowly surviving two brutal division games, New York will fatten up on AFC West cupcakes before their week six showdown with the Greatest Show on Bourbon Street .

4. If last week’s bizarre win against the Dolphins has shown us anything, it’s that the Colts are exactly who we thought they were. This team isn’t built to stop the run. This team is built to score points, play from ahead, and rush the passer. Fortunately, there isn’t a dominant rushing team left in the AFC that Indianapolis can’t handle. On a side note, I hope they’ve reinforced the scoreboards in Glendale. Their Sunday afternoon matchup with the Cardinals smells like a shootout.

5.  When we look back at the 2009 season at the end of the year, I have a feeling we’ll look back on last week’s Patriots/Jets slugfest as a season-defining moment for both teams. Bill Belichick was essentially humiliated and Tom Brady was heavily scrutinized. Both things spell trouble for the rest of the NFL. Despite this, a defense in transition may be this team’s Achilles Heel. Can they stop Atlanta this week? That should tell us how good this team really is.

6. Is it just me, or does this Baltimore Ravens team look eerily similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers team that won it all in 2007? They possess one of the leagues most feared defenses. They have a balanced, yet aggressive running game. They have a young quarterback able to make all the throws and manage the offense. Baltimore replaced some of the signature names of the past with internal talent, so we’ll see just how far that takes them.

7.  Matt Ryan is a special player. With him at the helm, and Michael Turner in the backfield, the Falcons are poised to remain in the top ten throughout the entire regular season. One thing that concerns me about this team is the defense. They have yet to face an elite quarterback, and I have reason to believe that secondary will be exposed sooner rather than later.

8. Is it just me, or does this New York Jets team look eerily similar to the Baltimore Ravens team that lost the AFC Championship game in 2008? The Jets appear to be following the same formula that has worked so well with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and so many others. Surround your young quarterback with talent, and slowly but surely assimilate him into the offense. Sanchez will eventually struggle. How much he does will determine how far this team will go in 2009.

9. It’s still early to raise any red flags, but what in the world is wrong with San Diego? The once super-Chargers limped out of Oakland victorious and lost a heartbreaker to Baltimore at home. This team should be winless. Losing Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick for 8 weeks will not help a rushing attack ranked 31st in the NFL. Letting DE Igor Olshansky walk was a rare mistake that will eventually cost this team down the road.

10. It’s hard to properly evaluate this team because they haven’t faced off against any playoff contenders so far. San Francisco is a good team and should shed some light on this Minnesota team. That defense may look good against Cleveland and Detroit, but I have a hard time buying them as legitimate. Through two games, Jared Allen has registered 5 tackles and 1 sack. Those statistics must be improved upon.

11. Few things surprise me in the NFL and the Packers’ week two loss to Cincinnati was one of them. Carson Palmer was able to move up and down the field against a talented Green Bay defense. Aaron Rogers has yet to turn the ball over, which is good. He also has yet to replicate the big-play ability shown in 2008, which is bad. By the time he figures it out, the Packers should find themselves back in the hunt for NFC North supremacy.

12. Will the real Jay Cutler please stand up? If he would stop Delhomming on us, we just may be able to figure out how good this team actually is. That defense looked impressive against the Steelers last week, and Rod Marinelli is a big reason why. Marinelli had his defensive linemen firing off the ball and wreaking havoc on a suspect Steelers line. I like the Bears against the Seahawks, but Cutler will have to settle down if the Bears want to be playing in January.

13. There is good news and bad news for the Dallas Cowboys. The bad news is Tony Romo is underachieving. DeMarcus Ware is underachieving. Roy E. Williams in underachieving.  Marion Barber is injured and Flozell Adams might be the dirtiest player in the game. Wade Phillips may have already lost his team and the Giants spoiled the grand opening of Jerry World . But hey, at least Terrell Owens is gone!

14. Fred Taylor might have found a successor for his signature nickname in Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb has only played the full 16 games four times in his 11-year career. The Eagles are a different football team with McNabb under center, but that may be the least of their problems. The Eagles lost two Pro Bowlers in the secondary when Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins left this past offseason. So far, replacing those two seems easier said than done.

15. Let me be frank about one thing: Kerry Collins is not an elite quarterback. He’s barely even serviceable. The NFL is turning into a pass-first league, which means teams will need to throw in order to remain competitive. Mario and Luigi, or whatever they’re calling themselves nowadays, should be enough to overpower weaker opponents. It goes without saying, but the Titans are the best 0-2 football team in the league.

16. If there were ever a team to go Arizona Cardinals on the NFL, it’s this one. Shaun Hill is a savvy veteran a la Jeff Garcia and that defense has been pushing on great for a few seasons now. If Frank Gore’s injury becomes serious, Glen Coffee is your 2009 Rookie of the Year. That third-rated rushing defense should be put to the test when they face off against Adrian Peterson and company.

17. I challenge anyone to find a more inconsistent team than the Cincinnati Bengals. This team will look great one series and terrible the next. Their extreme inconsistency balances out and the result is an average football team. Penalties and mental errors still hurt, but Carson Palmer’s revitalized relationship with Chad Ochocinco helps. As the weeks go on, Bengals rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga looks more like a different Ray in the same division. As of today, he is your defensive rookie of the year.

18. The Cardinals are not a bad football team. They are ranked where they are because there are 17 NFL teams better than they are. Beenie Wells has survived through two games in the NFL season. For that, I congratulate him because that’s two more than I originally figured. Arizona needs this Sunday's win more than the Colts do in order to keep pace in their division. I say they’ll lose this one, but only by a narrow margin. 63-59 Colts.

19. It’s one thing to rebuild an entire offense, and it’s another to rebuild an entire defense. To do both at the same time with a first year head coach means one thing and one thing only: AFC wildcard contenders. As crazy as it may sound, the Broncos have a legitimate shot at postseason action. In addition to playing with a chip on his shoulder, Kyle Orton actually has wide receivers to catch the ball. This alone will make him better. The Raiders and Chiefs figure to help as well.

20. For those who haven’t seen this team, the 2009 Buffalo Bills are very fun to watch. Trent Edwards seems to have taken a giant step in establishing himself among the legitimate starters in this league. Defensively, the Bills have gotten by thanks in part to strong safety play from Donte Witner and Bryan Scott. They’ll need strong play from both players and then some, as they play host to the New Orleans Saints this week.

21. Monday Night’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts told us everything we need to know about the Miami Dolphins. They can run the ball effectively, but at the end of the day they can not throw the football. It seems newly acquired linebacker Jason Taylor left his dancing shoes at home, as he’s been quiet in his return to the swamplands. Dolphins’ cornerback Sean Smith will find his way to the Pro Bowl very soon. He’s one heck of a corner.

22. Until they move to the east coast, the Seattle Seahawks will continue to be looked over. A healthy Matt Hasselbeck should allow Seattle to move in the opposite direction of his hairline, provided T.J. Houshmandzadeh and company continue to catch the ball. Seneca Wallace has been in this system for quite some time, so he is expected to produce. Even if he does, this team has too many injuries to go anywhere any time soon.

23. This team should be good. They have enough talent to make the playoffs, but something simply isn’t right. Jason Campbell’s approval rating makes him the second most controversial figure in Washington. Albert Haynesworth may not have any sacks, but he has been a force in the middle of that defense. Once they put everything together, this team could push for top ten standing.
24. Houston has given up more yards on the ground than any other team. They are ranked dead last in total yards allowed and they average the fewer yards on the ground than any other team in the NFL. Most of that can be attributed to one Chris Johnson, but those statistics are disturbing nonetheless. Fortunately, the Jacksonville Jaguars are coming to town to ale their offensive woes.
25. The Buccaneers are a product of what I believe to be the most difficult schedule in the NFL. Their next five games: NYG, @WAS, @PHI, CAR, @NE. Wow. If it hasn’t begun already, the Josh Freeman clock should be ticking. On the bright side, Jeff Faine, Antonio Bryant, and Kellen Winslow should help this team adjust to losing. They’ve all had experience doing so in Cleveland.
26. Bump this team up seven slots if Jake Delhomme plays consistently from week to week. Bump them up four slots if Dwayne Jarrett lives up to even half of his potential. Bump them up seven more slots if Megan Fox decides to go on a date with me. Odds are none of these things will happen any time soon, so the Panthers will stay exactly where they are.
27. No one screams bust quite like JaMarcus Russell. It’s puzzling to think, but the Raiders actually have a fairly decent team around him. Michael Bush and Darren McFadden are solid. Zach Miller is a sure-handed tight end. That defense is surprisingly good. If a veteran quarterback provided stability to the position (*cough* Jeff Garcia *cough*), this would be an interesting team to watch every Sunday. Sadly they are not, and the Raiders will remain one of the more disappointing franchises in the NFL.
28. Much like the Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs should be a better football team than they have shown to this point. Matt Cassel’s health has something to do with it, but there have been voices around that organization that believe Brodie Croyle is actually the better passer. With an innovative head coach like Todd Haley, this offense shouldn’t be down for long. Too bad I can’t say the same for the defense.
29. Jack Del Rio’s buns should begin to feel warmer as the season progresses. His defense was thoroughly trounced at the hands of Warner and the Cards, and that offense remains stuck in gear one. David Garrard is struggling and it won’t be too long before the fans turn their backs to the team. I thought a healthy Vince Manuwai would turn this team around, but that certainly doesn’t seem like the case.
30. Over the past few seasons, the Saint Louis Rams have put the misery in Missouri. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Rams Super Bowl run in 1999, and oh how things have changed. Torry Holt and Issac Bruce are replaced by Laurent Robinson and Doney Avery. Kevin Carter and Grant Winstrom give way to Gary Gibson and Chris Long. Steve Spagnuolo has worked miracles in the past, and he’ll certainly have his hands full with this team.
31. The Browns haven’t given Clevelanders much reason to be optimistic this season. Brady Quinn has struggled to move the ball down the field, and that is a big reason why the Browns are ranked dead last in several offensive categories. There is some talent on that defense, but they need to play four quarters of consistent football in order to be competitive.
32. With Daunte Culpepper, Detroit may have won 6 games. Starting Matt Stafford cuts that number in half. In fairness to the Lions, there is some talent on that roster. Ernie Sims, Julian Peterson, and Larry Foote form a semi-legitimate linebacker corps while Anthony Henry and Philip Buchannon receive chances to turn their respective careers around. Projected date of Detriot’s first win: November 22nd, 2009.

Posted on: September 22, 2009 9:40 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2009 9:43 pm

The $1,701 Bottle of Water

Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini is widely regarded as a disciplinarian in most league circles. There's nothing wrong with a little discipline in today's NFL - especially with the pampered state of the professional athlete.

However, there are times when a little discipline goes too far.

According to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports as reported per , Eric Mangini fined an unnamed Browns player the league minimum of $1,701.00 for taking a bottle of water without properly paying for it.

"The rules are clearly laid out," Mangini said in response to the situation.

"I don't ask them to do anything anyone in society isn't asked to do."

There are two ways to look at the situation.

From the coaches' perspective, there's no reason not to pay when you take something. The rules have been explained and players should understand what is and is not available to them. Mangini is likely trying to establishing a precedent that the team will remember for years to come.

From a player's perspective, this is just petty. This seems like an instance of Mangini being overbearing and authoritative.

And I agree.

There is absolutely no reason to enforce such a petty rule. The correct way to handle such a situation would be to explain the rules to the player and demand he pay the $2.00 for the water.

The bigger picture here is not good for the Browns.

Instances like this only harm league-wide perception of Eric Mangini and the Cleveland Browns. Former players criticized Eric Mangini saying he takes all the fun out of winning .

There have been reports of agents sterring their players away from Cleveland. Key personnel claim Mangini is too tough, and incidents like this won't help.

Free agency for Braylon Edwards among others is rapidly approaching, and news like this only hurts the re-signment effort.

Mangini could get away with this if the Browns were winning. They're not.

He needs to ease up, otherwise no one will buy anything he's selling.

Posted on: September 20, 2009 10:20 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2009 10:47 pm

Week 2: Brown and Out

It wasn't quite 1987, but boy did this one sting. The names on the backs of the jerseys have changed. The head coaches and owners have changed. The venue, records, and fanbases for both teams have changed dramatically over the years.

Even with all of these differences, time has shown that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Cleveland Browns lost once again to their bitter rivals out west, as the Denver Broncos trounced them, 27-6.

On the day Shannon Sharpe was inducted to the Denver Broncos' Ring of Honor, you had to wonder - how many active Cleveland Browns have a shot at achieving such a distinguished accomplishment? I could make a strong argument for Joe Thomas and D'Qwell Jackson, but that's about it.

Looking back on this game, I saw some things that I liked and others that made me cringe. Defensively, the Browns played well when they stayed fresh. Orton and the rest of the Broncos' offense were held in check for the majority of the first half. Kamerion Wimbley, Kenyon Coleman, and Eric Barton lead the charge against the run, and the cornerback tandem of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald stiffled Denvers' highly skilled tandem of wide receivers.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Browns simply were not good enough to compete. Once again, the combination of Brady Quinn and Brian Daboll struggled to sustain drives and manufacture touchdowns. Quinn and the offense finished the day converting 3 of 14 attempts on 3rd down.

That is unacceptable.

It doesn't get any easier from here, as the Browns square off against the vaunted Ravens' defense next Sunday in Baltimore. It might take a miracle to avoid falling to 0-3 next week, but this is the NFL, and anything can happen.

Ten from the Gentledawg

10. Teams are beginning to respect Eric Wright.

We saw the beginnings of this last week, and this week the trend continues. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal were held to a combined 6 receptions for 54 yards, and Eric Wright played a large role in accounting for such limited production. Wright was faced with a tough assignment, and I thought he handled himself well. Kyle Orton and the Broncos threw at Hank Poteat and Brandon McDonald for the majority of the second half. That's not a knock on those guys. It's a testiment to Eric Wright.

9. This is an Eric Mangini defense.

Dating back to his days in New York, Eric Mangini-coached defenses have always been extreme. Mangini is notorious for either sending the house on blitzes or dropping nearly everyone into coverage. Today featured more of the same, but on a much smaller scale. There were several occasions where Rob Ryan and Eric Mangini dropped nine defenders into zone coverage. Nine defenders! To their credit this worked on occasion, but good quarterbacks usually find a way to convert when afforded with that much time.

8. This game could have been ugly.

If you take away Phil Dawson's 47-yard field goal and add in Denvers' two short misses, the final score is 3-33. The Cleveland Browns should consider themselves fortunate that this game ended the way it did, because this easily could have been a blowout. Josh Mcdaniels settled for field goals in situations where his offense could have easily scored touchdowns. When you have an offense incapable of stretching the field, these things will happen.

7. Alex Mack is a rookie center.

For all the talk of Mack's intelligence and strength, he proved that there is a learning curve for even the most talented of rookies. Like the spear which grazed Xerxes in the movie 300 , we found out the seemingly immaculate Mack is still mortal. There is plenty of time for Alex Mack to develop into the dominant center so many expect him to be, but it is evident that change will not occurr overnight.

6. The Browns running game is a product of their offensive line.

Cleveland's rushing attack is directly related to the offensive lineman and the job they do up front. Any success Jamal Lewis or Jerome Harrison enjoyed this year came through holes even the slowest of backs could run through. Lawrence Vickers and Robert Royal have done an excellent job in the running game, and that doesn't show up on the stat board. Jamal Lewis gave me no reason to believe he still has 'it,' and Harrison wasn't much better.

5. Josh Cribbs is still a work in progress.

There is no denying Josh Cribbs is one of the best return specialists in the league. There's also no denying Cribbs has a long way to go in his development as a wide receiver. For the Cleveland Browns to have any sort of success in the passing game, Josh must continue to take strides in his maturation into the offense. Cribbs' route running today left a lot to be desired. He fumbled while trying to create after the catch and struggled to cleanly release on the line of scrimmage. He is clearly still finding his way around this offense.

4. Hank Poteat is not a very good player.

Heading into the regular season, I declared the play of our nickle cornerback will go a long way in determining the strength of our defense. If today was any indication, the Browns have much to be concerned with for the next 14 games. Poteat showed flashes of good play, but was largely ineffective against Denvers'  3-wide sets. Poteat was consistently beaten by Brandon Stokley in man coverage all throughout the game. Unless this issue is addressed, teams will continue to spead the Browns out and pick them apart.

3. Rob Ryan knows how to create pressure.

In his introductory press conference, Rob Ryan described his defense as "an attacking unit." Despite the lack of quarterback sacks, Ryan's unit harrassed Kyle Orton all day. Ryan used stunts and overloards to create confusion among Denvers' offensive linemen, and that was one of the reasons the Browns were able to hang in there early. Ryan's scheme featured a heavy dose of cover 1 and cover 0 - where safeties doubled as linebackers and corners played man on the outside.

2. Eric Barton is one of the smartest players on this team.

One of the most plesant surprises this season has been the play of Eric Barton. Barton played a well-rounded game today. He was able to effectively stop the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage. Barton seemed to set the tone for the defense, and it became clear why Mangini wanted him to help lead this defense.

1. Brady Quinn has officially been solved.

I alluded to this last week, and it became obvious today: there is a blueprint for stopping Brady Quinn. Teams have figured out that Quinn is reluctant to go down the field in the passing game. Denver has accounted for this by creeping the safeties into the box and daring Quinn to throw the ball down field. It's no coincidence Robert Royal finished the game with one reception for 13 yards. The Broncos pressured Brady Quinn and dared him to take shots down field. In a copycat league, other teams will do the same and likely experience a similar degree of success.

Posted on: September 13, 2009 6:58 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2009 7:16 pm

Week 1: New Versus Old

After months of training camp, preseason games, and quarterback controversy, the 2009 regular season is finally here. For the Cleveland Browns, that means the start of what figures to be another roller coaster season.

Like any roller coaster, this one begins at the bottom.

The very bottom.

Miscommunication, penalties, and one inexperienced quarterback contributed to a 20-34 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Today’s football game featured a distinct balance between new and old.

New Browns head coach Eric Mangini began his second stint as head coach by facing an old foe – Brett Favre.  Entering his 19th season in the NFL, the ageless Favre made his unprecedented 270th consecutive start behind center – an NFL record. Favre silenced his critics and played within himself for the majority of the game. Although he wasn’t perfect, Favre played well enough to escape Cleveland with a win.

Opposing Favre was newly appointed Browns starting quarterback, Brady Quinn. Heading into his 3rd season in the league, Quinn made his 5th career start…and it showed. Quinn finished the day completing 21 of 35 passes for 205 yards. He threw for a touchdown, but turned the ball over twice. As strange as it may sound, the statistics were actually the highlight of his performance.

Quinn’s conservative approach to the game seemed to match that taken by offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll. When afforded time in the pocket, Quinn rarely took any shots down field. He opted for short completions to running backs and tight ends instead of utilizing the team’s biggest weapons in Josh Cribbs and Braylon Edwards. The two receivers finished with a combined 3 receptions for 22 yards.

Contrasting the quarterbacks were two running backs at different ends of their careers.

Starting at running back for the Minnesota Vikings was the explosive Adrian Peterson. At 24, Adrian Peterson has already cemented himself as one of, if not the premier running back of the day. Peterson certainly looked the part as he carried the ball 25 times for a whopping 180 yards. Most of that running came behind the best run-blocking offensive line in football.

The most recent running back to lead the league in rushing faced off against one of the old ones. Just weeks removed from his 30th birthday, Jamal Lewis was unable to match the effort of his successor. Lewis and the Browns were able to find running room early, but it was too little too late. The game's score took the Browns out of running situations, and that proved to be the difference in the game.

The Cleveland Browns’ 2009 season began with a disappointing loss. There were, however, several things to take away from this game. They say those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. In that spirit, I present the top 10 things I’ve learned from Vikings/Browns...

10. Brian Daboll will run a conservative, West Coast offense.

Whether it's the 2nd & 16 toss to Jamal Lewis or the 2nd & 15 draw to James Davis, Brian Daboll's offensive playcalling was extremely simple. Although Daboll took advantage of Josh Cribbs in the wildcat, his offense looked flat. Some of that falls on Brady Quinn's decision making, but the majority of the blame rests on Dabolls well-rounded shoulders.

9. Adrian Peterson is very, very good.

Sometimes you have to experience an event first-hand to appreciate just what you're witnessing. There is no question that Adrian Peterson is a special player, but I have gained an in-depth scope as to the depth of his talents. He possesses superior vision, balance, strength, agility, and acceleration to any runner I have ever seen. Peterson is without a doubt the best running back in the league.

8. The Browns will be competitive this season.

Heading into this game, you would be hard-pressed to find a fan or analyst that gave Cleveland a chance. The Browns limited Peterson to an astounding 25 yards on 11 carries through the first half of the football game. Minnesota actually trailed 13-10 at halftime. Had the Browns played first-half football through all four quarters, they would have walked away as winners.

7. Kamerion Wimbley has emerged as a solid outside linebacker.

Wimbley had a strong training camp and performed well throughout the preseason. It was nice to see him continue playing at a high level entering the regular season. Wimbley was a big reason Peterson was ineffective through the first half. He played a very disciplined football game - maintaining his containment while remaining active in pursuit.

6. Rob Ryan loves blitzing defensive backs.

It's a trait we saw in Oakland and something that has continued in Cleveland. Ryan pressured Brett Favre by sending defensive backs to the quarterback early and often. Abram Elam, Brodney Pool, and Brandon McDonald, were all very active around the line of scrimmage. Both safties recorded sacks today in what figures to the the first of many.

5. The Cleveland Browns have the best special teams unit in the league.

That statement is no exaggeration - the Browns possess one of the most balanced and explosive special teams units in the NFL. Dave Zastudil and the punting until were able to keep the Vikings deep for the majority of the game. Phil Dawson consistently sent kicks deep into the endzone. Josh Cribbs was explosive. That, plus outstanding kick coverage makes Cleveland one of the most dangerous teams in that element of the game.

4. Joe Thomas is an outstanding left tackle.

Jared Allen was embarrassed today. Joe Thomas neutralized the Pro Bowl defensive end in pass rush situations and manhandled him against the run. Allen finished the day with 0.5 tackles and no quarterback sacks. In his 3rd season in the league, Joe Thomas has already cemented his name among the elite tackles in the game.

3. The Browns need to work on penalties and discipline.

Cleveland finished the day with 8 penalties for 66 yards. Some of the penalties were the result of mental mistakes, but others were issues with technique. Knowing Eric Mangini, this team should have those cleaned up by next week, but it was shocking to see, to say the least.

2. Shaun Rogers is healthy...and back to form.

Any time you have a nose tackle who consistently commands double and triple teams, you have the start of a great defense. Rogers was extremely disruptive all game. He played a large role in stopping Peterson early, and he helped generate pressure on obvious passing situations. Rogers should find his way back to Hawaii at the end of the season.

1. Brady Quinn is an average quarterback.

You can't have success in the NFL without balance, and Brady Quinn is not a balanced passer. Quinn has consistently struggled with the deep ball - something that hurt him when driving during the final minutes of play. Quinn chose to attempt only high percentage passes. This strategy worked early, but it backfired late in the game. When the Browns were faced with obvious passing situations, Quinn could not deliver. For Quinn and the Browns to be successful, he'll need to get the wide receivers involved and stretch the field.

Posted on: August 8, 2009 1:11 pm

Eric Steinbach Holds the Key

Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson?

That seems to be the question on the minds of Browns fans heading into the first week of the preseason. As significant as the quarterback may be, he alone will not hold the keys to how the Browns perform in 2009.

Those keys are held by the guards.

Cleveland chances to experience any sort of success this year will rest on the broad shoulders of Eric Steinbach, Rex Hadnot, Ryan Tucker, and Floyd Womack.

It’s funny to think the guard position would impact anything – much less the welfare of the entire offensive unit.

Like left field in baseball or the sixth man in basketball, no one grows up dreaming of playing guard in the NFL. Guards are usually composed of reject offensive tackles or centers who struggled making protection calls up front.

In other words, guards as a whole are failures.

This brings us to the Cleveland Browns.

It only seems fitting that a position synonymous with disappointment will play a key role in reviving a city known for just that.

If you asked Browns head coach Eric Mangini which position has given him the most headaches over the years, he’d likely say it’s the guard. Looking back on Mangini’s past three years as a head coach, offensive production and team success directly related to the play of the left guard.

In 2006, New York made the playoffs by finishing with a 10-6 record. The Jets were successful due to the outstanding play of all-pro guard Pete Kendall, who anchored the left side of the offensive line.

Kendall’s veteran leadership and dominant blocking would prove invaluable, as the Jets took a step back in his absence.

After trading Kendall to the Redskins following the 2006 season, New York’s offensive line struggled. New starting left guard Adrien Clarke never lived up to expectations. Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold, who played so well with Kendall between them, noticeably regressed. The Jets finished 4-12 and failed to capture the same magic they experienced just one year ago with the essentially the same personnel.

Frustrated with the situation, Eric Mangini and Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum knew they needed an impact player to replace Pete Kendall at left guard. The pair made one of the biggest free agent acquisitions of the time, signing 8-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca to a 5-year deal worth over 40 million dollars.

With Faneca on the left side, Thomas Jones was able to run for over 1,300 yards and the New York Jets experienced their second winning season in three years.

To say Eric Mangini has his share of history with left guards would be an understatement.

It comes as no surprise that Mangini’s first real controversy with the Cleveland Browns came in the playing weight of left guard Eric Steinbach. The 6’5, 295-pound Steinbach is generally considered a finesse blocker, preferring technique over raw power. Just like Clarke in 2007, Mangini fears the lean, athletic Steinbach will be overwhelmed by larger, stronger defensive lineman.

Steinbach has consistently performed at a high level regardless of playing weight, so only time will tell how the situation plays out.

Whether it is incumbent Eric Steinbach or journeyman Rex Hadnot, the left guard position will play a key role in determining how the Browns fair in 2009.

If the Cleveland Browns prove successful due to strong guard play, then finally, both parties will get the respect they so rightfully deserve.

Category: NFL
Posted on: August 5, 2009 1:41 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2009 1:45 pm

Training Camp Observations: 8/4/09

I apologize for the delay in posting this.

These are my observations from Tuesday's practice held at the Browns' facility in Berea. I spent the better part of the day talking with Tony Grossi and Kenny Roda among others, as the media was confined to a small section of the practice field. Though accomodating, Grossi seemed very jaded about the entire experience. He was very helpful, and I appreciate his help.

 Thoughts on the offense

  • We are beginning to develop a good sense of how the Browns' offense will look in 2009. One of the biggest changes from 2008 will be the emphasis on the draw play. Mangini's Jets lead the NFL in draw plays in 2007, so it's to be expected he'll bring a similar offensive approach to Cleveland.


  •  Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll seems to be comfortable calling for the draw on any down or distance - regardless of situation. The Browns have ran a number of different plays from the draw - most noticiably play action passes and the flea flicker.


Thoughts on the team

  • Joe Thomas looks as good as ever. He held up in pass protection all day, as rushers seemed to give up when testing the left side.


  • It may still be early, but Abram Elam sure looks like a ball-hawking safety. He has a knack for jumping routes, as he picked off Brady Quinn in practice.



  • Despite his small stature, Syndric Steptoe has performed well on offense through the first few days of training camp. Steptoe hasn't looked as well in the return game, as he displayed poor field awareness and lacked game-breaking speed on kickoffs.


  • Jerome Harrison made a great catch on a poorly thrown ball by Brady Quinn. He also looked better running the football, as he broke off a few big gains in team drills.


  • Kamerion Wimbley really impressed me in 11-on-11 drills. He has shown good strength (as evident by the large number of quarterback hurries he has through camp) and is primed for a breakout season.


  • Mike Furrey is a veteran leader. In addition to making a few nice catches in traffic, Furrey was seen at practice barking out orders to the younger wide receivers.

Thoughts on the rookies

  • The MVP of training camp thus far has been James Davis. Davis showed ability in blitz pickup this afternoon, broke a long gain on a draw play, and made some nice moves in the open field.

  • If there were one player that has had a disappointing training camp to this point, it would be first round pick Alex Mack. Mack seems to lack the bulk to sustain blocks against some of the bigger defensive lineman. He was beaten by Ahytba Rubin in pass protection and seems to really struggle adjusting to the next level.

Thoughts on the quarterbacks

  • Derek Anderson missed a throw under pressure. He threw beind his intended receiver.


  • Derek had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. This was the third pass Anderson had tipped, which is strange considering he's usually the tallest player on the field.


  • Brady overthrew yet another deep pass in practice. His intended receiver was about 15 yards deep.


  • Quinn was able to complete a few short to mid-range receptions, much to the delight of the small crowd on hand.
Category: NFL
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