Saturday, September 30, 2006

Holly and Oak

Word is that Baxter is going to miss the game in Oakland, too. So it goes. But I hope he gets back soon, because we could REALLY start to miss him against Carolina.

I can't remember where, but somebody made the good point that, although Daven Holly had a poor game against the Ravens, he wasn't getting burned by his guys (ala Ralph Brown). Holly was staying with his guy, but he just unable to defense the ball when it was thrown in his direction. Now, this is frustratingly bad play none the less, but it still shows hope. As the un-remembered source points out, making that closing deal (defending the ball when it is thrown your way) is something that can be coached.

My thinking is that, its also an effective scheme against a younger QB. See, McNair is old enough and smart enough to realize that, even though Holly has his guy covered, he can throw it there knowing his guy can beat Holly to the ball. But on Sunday, Holly will be defending (or not defending) passes from Andrew Walter. My hope is that, when Walter sees Holly blanketing Alvis Whitted*, he won't have the instincts to put the ball up so that Whitted can beat Holly to the ball. So, while Holly wasn't an effective defender last week, maybe he'll be more effective this week.

*Who the heck is Alvis Whitted?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What if

Charlie Frye is currently the 26th best QB, based on passer rating of 68.1. A lowly number, but anyone who knows anything knows that Charlie's numbers are being hurt by some poor play around him.

In particular, of his 5 interceptions, 3 were caused by receivers dropping balls that they should have caught, and one was caused by a blinside hit as he released the ball.

If you were to assume that those 4 bogus interceptions had instead clanged to the ground, his rating would be 86.0, good enough to be tied for 18th in the league.

Alternatively, if you were to assume that those 4 bogus interceptions had instead been caught for 4 more completions, 40 more yards (10 per extra completion), and one more touchdown, his rating would be 95.0, good enough for 8th in the league, one spot higher than Carson Palmer.

Is Frye the real deal? The signs point to "yes".

Tough Schedule?

Well, National media type are coming around to the same conclusion that I had inklings of during our week-1 loss to the Saints: The Saints are an OK team. It makes sense, really. They were a regular 9 win team before last year (even with Aaron Brooks at QB), who through alot of bad luck and bad coaching went down the toilet. They then signed the best free agent QB (and one of the best overall QBs over the past couple seasons) in Drew Brees and got handed the toast of the draft in Reggie Bush. So seeing them take off isn't too big a surprise (just like Miami winning 8 games last year was no big shocker).

So we've had three losses to three undefeated teams. Its not an excuse that I want to hear the coach or players using, but I don't mind mentioning it.

We won't have any such excuse to use against the Raiders. Everyone but Roger Brown (who picked the Raiders to win the AFC) knows that the Raiders stink.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Not too bad

Ahhh, I was back home in Cleveland yesterday, and it was a great fall day to be able to turn off the TV sound, turn up Jim Donovan, and watch the Browns game.

Going into this game, I was as pessimistic as everyone else. And through the first couple drives, I hadn't seen much reason to change my mind. But then, it happened. Charlie Frye stepped it up. Passes were caught. In short, I believe that the Browns showed up the Ravens, even if the final score did not reflect that.

I was VERY impressed by Frye. He had a penchant for hanging onto the ball a little too long when getting sacked, but otherwise he showed a great poise in dealing with the Ravens' relentless passrush. Whereas in week one he was doing alot more running in those situations, today he was looking for and sometimes finding those inevitably open receivers. That 58 yard pass to Edwards was a thing of beauty.

I liked the play calling. I'm glad they didn't waste their time seeing if Jason Wright could run against the Ravens wall of linemen. Like clockwork, Grossi blames the Carthon playcalling for the loss (particularly, that endzone pass interception that inevitably lost the game for us). But he will never give credit to the fact that we would've never been in the game in the first place without those shots down field.

The thing is, Frye has been incredibly consistent in making safe passes this season. Most of the picks that he's had so far have been dropped/deflected balls that are all on the receivers, and not Frye's fault. And he's done a great job of pulling the ball down and running with it when he couldn't make something happen. So in that situation, in the end zone, I think that giving the ball to Frye to pass was nearly as safe an option as running it, with a higher probability of success. And if Frye got hit a second earlier, he wouldn't have even got the pass off and would've just taken the sack. And if Frye got hit a second later, the pass would've been a perfect touchdown. But, by freak luck, he was hit the second he was throwing it, making it a bad pass. I don't mind playing those odds.
Edwards redeemed himself.

Winslow nearly backed up his talk, but that taunting call got my blood boiling. I guess that there's still hope that he'll learn, but I'm not going to count on it. He's still a good weapon to have, but you've gotta take the good with the bad.

Wimbley looked decent. He didn't get any sacks, but he was close enough. I think that he might be the real deal.

I liked that we were bringing alot of pressure on D. Sean Jones and DiQwell Jackson both looked capable, and Chaun Thompson showed a little something.

Simon Fraser played a good game. I wonder how long Jimmy Donovan was hoping to use that "Simon says .. ." line.

Oline was, well, what can you say about 7 sacks? They were outnumbered so many times that it wasn't really their fault. The running game had glimses, but not enough to justify running more than you need keep-them-honest. I believe that by the end of the season, they will be able to run more convincingly (at which point Grossi will point and say "Why haven't they been doing that all along, Carthon has been wasting Droughns, the best RB since Jim Brown"), but right now the run game just isn't there.

Daven Holly was a joke. CB is really ugly. At least he's young and has hope of getting better. But he could be a real liability against the Raiders next week.

Is the season officially a failure? Probably. I will be happy with another 6-10 record. I think that we can reasonably hope to win against:
- Jets
- Tampa Bay (in Cleveland on Christmas Eve)
- Houston
- One from Atlanta, Kansas City, or Baltimore
- One from Cincinnati or Pittsburgh (yeah, I know, tall order)
But at least we're seeing things to get excited about. Frye might really be the answer. We might really have offensive weapons in Edwards and Winslow. We might have a real pass rusher in Wimbley. And we might have one last present from the Butch Davis era in Sean Jones.

It doesn't change the fact that we are a losing team. But what else do we have, but hope for the future?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Maybe we should have held on to Michael Lehan

Not too big of a surprise, but word is that Daylon McCutcheon is lost for the seaon. Combined with Gary Baxter's continuing problems with his pectoral strain, what started as a position of strength is starting to look like a major area of concern (I know, everyone and their brother was already concerned about this, but I was remaining irrationally optimistic that we would see Bodden, Baxter, and McCutcheon all at the same time).

I was just thinking this morning that Ray Mickens was a better slot than Ralph Brown is. Unfortunately, now the question is who is the better starter. And I think the answer is, lets put Babatunde back on the team!

Its times like this that I really wish we had a developmental player that we could plug in. If we're gonna see a bad player in there, it might as well be someone who might learn from the experience. Unfortunately, Demario Minter is already on the IR. I still want to see something from Antonio Perkins, but all reports that I've heard of him are that he's a little TOO developmental. Even Michael Lehan (who, I believe, is now starting for the Dolphins) would've been a good option at this point.

Monday, September 18, 2006

But when I said run the ball more, I meant run it FORWARD

In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that I was driving through Eastern West Virginia and Western Maryland from 12 to 4 Sunday afternoon, so I didn't actually see any of the game, other than what gives away for free.
So, Grossi's big thing last week was that we need to blame Carthon for the loss because he didn't establish the run immediately. So Carthon comes out pounding the run, with nothing to show for it. So how does Grossi explain this twist of events? He says that we need to do more swing passes, and we need to call DIFFERENT run plays, and we need to establish an offensive personality (whatever that means). I don't want to defend Carthon, but at least Grossi isn't calling the plays.

Personally, I suscribe to the Football Outsiders POV (as explained by that oasis for the thinking Browns fan, Mistake by the Lake): While there is a demonstrably strong correllation between successful teams and teams that run the ball alot, it is not because running the ball causes the teams to be successful.

I like Winslow's idea: Open it up. The line was able to hold up, so Frye should be able to do SOMETHING with it.
Yesterday Wimbley got his first sack, and Edwards got his first 100 yeard game. But, while Wimbley looks like he might live up to his billing, I'm still not convinced about Edwards. He dropped passes again yesterday, and that is simply not acceptable. The thing is, big physical receivers aren't really that hard to find. Quincy Morgan was a big, physical receiver, and we know what a bust he was. A number one receiver has to first and foremost be consistent. And yesterday, even though Braylon was plenty impressive with his 75 yard completion, he dropped enough passes that we cannot really count on him to be one of our playmakers.

So, until Edwards DOES prove himself, he should get no more balls than Travis Wilson, Jerome Harrison, Lawrence Vickers, or Josh Cribbs. And until he proves himself, I'd rather see more 1 WR/2 (or 3) TE sets. Darnell Dinkins deserves the chance to drop some balls. We already know that Edwards can do that much.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Maybe I need a tin foil hat to keep my thoughts from getting stolen

I was going to write this, but then BitterFans beat me to it. In any case, I agree whole heartedly, point for point. Especially that Roger Brown is a hack (a hack who says the Raiders will win the Superbowl).

Why Steve Doerschuk is the best beat reporter.

Where other beat guys just wave their arms and say "The line is terrible, the season is doomed, fire Mo Carthon", Steve Doershuk just goes and talks to Kevin Shaffer and Romeo Crennel about what went wrong.

Nothing can sugarcoat what we saw on Sunday. But based on the way Shaffer and Crennel talked about it, it sounds like its more a problem of the line not gelling, and them just not being prepared. So, hopefully a couple games into the season, it'll start looking more respectable. Then we can start worrying about all our other holes.
Yesterday's TMQ said:

"Braylon Edwards -- the Next Charles Rogers? Nothing makes a quarterback wince more than the well-thrown pass that caroms off a careless receiver for an interception; the pick is the receiver's fault but is charged against the quarterback. The Saints leading Cleveland 19-14, the Browns had first down on the New Orleans 45 at the two-minute mark. Charlie Frye threw it perfectly to Edwards, third overall choice of the 2005 draft. Edwards carelessly allowed the ball to carom off his hands; the deflection was intercepted by New Orleans, ending the game."

While I'm not ready to give up on him, I also don't want to defend Edwards. His non-catch cost us the game.
I know that I give the coaches the benefit of the doubt, perhaps longer than is justified. Last year I didn't complain about Carthon too much, because I thought that it was worth trying alot of his "trick plays".

That being said, even I was disgusted by the fullback pitch out on 3rd and one.

But listening to Grossi's chat on Monday, you'd think that Carthon was the guy out there who couldn't hold his blocks. Grossi wants him fired right now. But then again, Grossi's idea of a game plan is run up the middle, run up the middle, run up the middle. So I'd rather see Carthon fail with his trick plays than to try Grossi's idea of banging his head against a wall for four quarters.
I still think that alot of the problems we saw on Sunday should be fixed by the end of the season. The problem is that, with a 16 game schedule, you don't have time to learn on the job. In Marvin Lewis' first two seasons with Cincinnati (going 8-8 both seasons) they started off slowly, and then came on towards the end of the season. At the beginning of last year, Lewis' whole training camp was focused on winning game 1, so that they could get off to a fast start.

Thats what we're going to need next year. Crennel's going to have to start running his real offense during the preseason, because it doesn't matter if the opponents don't know what to expect if you can't execute for lack of practice.

Another big contributor to the Bengal's success is that they have had the same 11 starters on offense in 2004, 2005, and now in 2006. That kind of continuity can't be overlooked. As it stands now, four of our offensive starters never took a snap with the Browns last year, and two more didn't start the season and only had limited playing time when they were in there. If we can have more consistency next year (maybe a guard will be replaced, and of course center will be replaced when Bentley is back), we will be on much better footing to start the season on a strong note.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Insight into one "Predictor's" rationale

Reading through another season prediction (this one put the Browns at 5-11) I gleaned some interesting insight:
Pittsburgh, with everything in place, runs away with the AFC North. I had Cincinnati as a wild-card team and a dark horse Super Bowl entry. Then all that police-blotter stuff hit the fan. So, operating on a high moral plane, I recomputed and got them to 8-8. This might strike you as the worst kind of blue-nosed sanctimoniousness, but I don't care. I must face my neighbors, all of whom have many small children they're raising, and we mustn't lose sight of the real things in life. Steve McNair plays just enough games to get the Ravens into the postseason, but I have to admit that they stepped forward and filled Cincinnati's spot when I did the morality number on the Bengals.
OK, now for all you e-mailers who are rolling up your sleeves and getting ready to fire off cannons of rhetoric at your faithful narrator, the real adjustment I did on Cincy was very slight. Originally, I had them beating Cleveland twice. I changed it to a split. I wouldn't be surprised if they pull themselves together and make the playoffs and do well there. I just feel that the offseason turmoil could presage something inherently wrong with this team, and I don't want to get caught sleeping.

So, apparently the guy had Cleveland at 4-12, and decided that he wanted the Bengals' win total to be lower, so he gave the Browns a win over Cincinnati. This confirms my suspiscions on how these big national media guys think: They don't give a single thought to which team is better, or which team might win the match-ups. They decide where they want the teams to end up, and then come up with justifications after the fact. Furthermore, they aren't even looking at all the teams. Instead, they focus on their Golden boys (Seahawks, Steelers, Giants, Cowboys, Bengals, Dolphins. . .) and decide where they want THEM to end up, and then the rest of the teams are just a "fudge" factor to get the right number of league-wide wins and losses.

I know, I know, horse, dead, stop beating. Predictions are meaningless exercises, and the guys doing them also know they're crud, but they make a nice profit off publishing this stuff, so they have to go through it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wimbley's fate is sealed: IR by week 4

Now, I'm not about to give any creedence to season predictions just because they may favor the Browns in one way or another. They're all bull, and they tell more about the individual predictor's biases than of anything that might happen during the season.

That being said, I've noticed more than a couple guys guessing that Kamerion Wimbley will win Defensive Rookie of the year. 1, 2, 3&4

Of course, we should be used to these Rookie praises. Braylon Edwards got alot of votes for Offensive Rookie of the year last year, and the year before Kellen Winslow Jr. got alot of talk. So what do these praises of Kamerion Wimbley tell us?

Thats right, the predictors have guaranteed that Wimbley will be hurt by Week 4, most likely with a case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. If we're lucky, he won't pass it to the rest of the team.
On a positive note:
4 days, 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 52 seconds until kickoff. And if there's any justice in the universe, we might get our appetite wet by seeing The Benless Steelers* lose to the Dolphins tomorrow night.

*Although, to be fair, you've gotta admit that Charlie Batch is still an upgrade from Super-Bowl-Ben.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Butch's guys

After yesterdays cuts, only a handful of Butch Davis Draft picks remain on the roster:
-Kellen Winslow
-Andra Davis
-Chaun Thompson
-Sean Jones
-Leigh Bodden (undrafted)
Edited to add: And don't forget Ryan Pontbriand, LSE

And its not like alot of Butch superstars (or even starters) are floating out there with other teams. The only other guys who are still starting (as far as I know) are:
-Gerard Warren
-Anthony Henry
-Chris Crocker

Thanks, Butch!
This Rothlisberger stuff is interesting. The guy goes around recklessly on a crotch rocket with no helmet, does a face plant into a car's windshield, and recovers only to be kept out by an appondectomy. Oh,the irony.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

He's Back

In an anticipated move, the Browns have signed living legend Babatunde Oshinowo to the practice squad. Now, if I remember my rules correctly, another team can sign Baba away if they want to give him a roster spot, but short of that he's still ours.

Another interesting note: J'Vonne Parker was cut, and another Defensive End was signed. On the Browns depth chart, Parker had been listed as third NT behind Ted Washington and Ethan Kelly. That had confused me, because I thought he was an end, and it looks like I have some confirmation on that.

Finally, I noticed that Nick Speegle wasn't even on the practice squad. I guess that LB just isn't a position that they need depth at.

The price was right

I was all worried that we were going to be without our 5-7 rounders (or worse) for all our center movement. But according to Crennel, the Browns surrendered a conditional draft pick in 2008, either a sixth- or seventh-rounder. Alright, we can live with that. If I remember correctly, the Ross Tucker trade was conditional, so it probably didn't cost us anything. So, in the end of the day we gave up a 07 6 or 7 rounder (I don't remember which) for Lennie Friedman) and an 08 6 or 7 rounder for Fraley.

Among yesterday's cuts was Andrew Hoffman, Nick Speegle, and Jon Dunn, all 05 draft picks of Savage. Is it a sign that Savage's first draft was sub-par, or that the level of talent on the team is getting higher, so we just don't have the room to keep bench warming projects around? I think its a little of both.

Don't get me wrong, I still have full faith in Savage. I still see the quality of players on this team getting better. I'm willing to give Savage a pass on the '05 draft because he was only a couple months into the job at the time. Two reasons:
  1. The scouting almost all happens during the months of September to December, and the fact that he didn't get his system into place until January means that the scouting leading up to the 05 draft wasn't under his tenure as Browns GM.
  2. I assume that alot of the scouting analysis that he did while working for the Ravens was intellectual property of the Ravens organization. Sure, he was able to bring with him everything that he remembered about the players, but (hopefully) NFL scouting is a more rigorous process than just watching guys and judging based on a "gut feeling". I'm sure he had tons of notebooks full of notes on players, and I assume that alot of that material belonged to the Ravens.
While I'll give him a pass for 05, 06 is on the table, and so are rounds 1-3 from 05.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


New list of cuts, and a new center.

If the powers that be thought that we were deficient at center, I'm glad they took that step. Although it came pretty late, don't you think? And the price hopefully wasn't too steep. Nothing higher than a 5.

The cuts aren't overly surprising. Suggs was expected. I was pulling for Speegle, but I'm not surprised.

What does surprise (and sadden) me is to see that Babatunde was cut. I understand that you can't keep too many NTs on the roster, and I can't really say I know much about him other than his awesome name and cool biography. Hopefully he'll be resigned to the practice squad.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The calm before the storm

As Hurricaine (err, I guess its just Tropical Storm) Ernesto rolls into town, I've noticed that a couple more predictions are up. I say hah to all of them. Lots of people expecting the Colts to win it all. Don't we remember anything about Peyton Manning's well-earned role as choke extraordinaire?

But, predictions don't matter. Training camp doesn't matter. Preseason games don't matter.

The only thing that matters is that 8 days, 21 hours, 42 minutes, and 48 seconds from now, I will have a beer in my hand, and the Browns season will begin.