Author: Daniel Prekopa

Movie enthusiast and sports nut.

Analyzing a crazy week for the Browns

With the final preseason game looming and the regular season opener fast approaching, it’s been a crazy and busy week for the Browns.

Most of these moves were not unexpected but how some went down has been the topic of much discussion.

Here is an analysis of each of the major moves that have occurred in the past week.

KIZER NAMED STARTING QUARTERBACK

As I’ve said throughout the summer, Brock Osweiler had the best chance at the starting quarterback position based on his experience. But if rookie DeShone Kizer played equal or above him, it would be in the best interest of the franchise to start Kizer because he is the future and Osweiler is not.

Osweiler had his chance to win the starting job in preseason Week 2, but played poorly. Kizer, while unspectacular last week against the Buccaneers, played well and moved the offense. The team would have scored more points if not for a pass interference penalty against Corey Coleman and a fumble by Duke Johnson.

At this point, with Cody Kessler struggling, coach Hue Jackson should stick with Kizer the entire season and live with the growing pains.

JOE HADEN RELEASED

This one is a head scratcher. Not in the fact cornerback Joe Haden is gone. Injuries have affected his play in recent years and he clearly has lost a step. But it’s curious that with a need at wide receiver, the Browns couldn’t find a trade partner and chose to release him instead.

As a result, the rival Steelers snatched Haden up quickly. It’s going to be a strange opening Sunday with Haden in black and gold.

CAM ERVING TRADED TO THE CHIEFS

It finally happened. The Browns are rid of a player they should have released long ago. The amazing thing is the Chiefs actually gave them a 5th round pick for him. This is a total steal by the Browns.

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Things to look for in Giants-Browns preseason game

The Cleveland Browns host the New York Giants in their second preseason game on Monday Night Football. It might be the only nationally-televised game for them aside from (possibly) the London game in the regular season.

Unless, of course, they have a game get flexed into a primetime spot later in the season. Which for a team coming off of a one-win season is very wishful thinking.

The Browns are coming off a 20-14 win over the Saints in their preseason opener. Yes, wins and losses in preseason matter little, but considering the Browns were 0-4 last preseason, a win can’t hurt their confidence.

Here are a few things to watch for in Monday’s tilt on ESPN:

#1 Brock Osweiler is starting again. But for how long?

Osweiler played poorly in the preseason opener against the Saints. The chemistry and timing with his receivers was off. He didn’t have any bad plays, but just wasn’t that great. With rookie DeShone Kizer vaulting up to the No. 2 spot in the depth chart, Osweiler needs to show something to prove he should be the starter Week 1 against the Steelers.

#2 Will Myles Garrett get his first sack?

Garrett played well in his first preseason game but did not record a sack. Will he get his first (unofficial) one against the Giants under the lights of Monday Night Football? It would help for him to get at least a couple out of the way before the regular season.

#3 How will the secondary fare?

Assuming Giants quarterback Eli Manning and receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. play Monday, it will be a big test for the Browns’ defensive backfield. Saints quarterback Drew Brees had the opener off.

Rookie Jabrill Peppers has impressed in camp so far. This is a big chance for him to show off his skills to a national audience.

#4. Will the Browns make their kicker decision after the game?

As expected, incumbent kicker Cody Parkey and rookie Zane Gonzalez have been pretty even in the kicker competition. Depending how things play out in this Giants game, Browns coach Hue Jackson might be able to pick his guy before the preseason dress rehearsal next week against Tampa Bay.

#5. Will the team continue to carry positive momentum?

As I stated above, wins and losses are almost meaningless in the preseason. But for a Browns team with so many rookies and second-year players, every victory counts in the confidence department. A victory in a Monday Night Football game at home can really give the players a boost heading into the back end of the preseason.

Browns must move on from Cam Erving

 

 

 

In their preseason opener last week against the Saints, the Browns gave veteran left tackle Joe Thomas the night off. In his place was “versatile” third-year lineman Cam Erving.

That’s right. The player who failed miserably at center last year and has been at best serviceable in backup duty at guard was asked to protect starter Brock Osweiler’s blind side in that game. The results? Well they weren’t pretty.

The fall-on-your-butt technique is never a good one for an offensive lineman. And sadly, no matter where Erving lines up on the field, this keeps happening. This on top of multiple false starts, holds and looking lost on several plays.

This would be understandable considering this was one of his first opportunities playing the left tackle position. But it’s not the first time he has looked this lost on the football field before.

And take a look at this laughable mismatch of Erving against No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. This should be a mismatch for sure, but Erving proves to be no barrier to Garrett’s path to the quarterback.

Presumably, Thomas will start the rest of the preseason, relegating Erving to backup status once again. But the question is why is the team letting him still take up a roster spot?

This is Erving’s third year. Issues like footwork, balance, strength, penalties should have been worked out by now. He has shown no improvement from his rookie season until now. Versatility only works if a player is competent at most positions and Erving is not close to competent at virtually any position.

Is coach Hue Jackson really willing to have Erving out there in the next few preseason games trying to protect Kessler or Kizer? Even against backups, I do not like those odds.

If the Browns could get a conditional 7th round pick for Erving, they should thank their lucky stars and take the deal. Otherwise, just cut him before the roster is set at the end of the preseason. The front office could probably pluck just about anyone who doesn’t make the cut from other teams and odds are they would be at least as competent, if not more, than Erving most days.

Three things to look for in the Saints-Browns preseason opener

The wait is over. Football is back … sort of.

The Cleveland Browns open up their 2017 preseason schedule with a tilt against the New Orleans Saints at First Energy Stadium on Thursday night.

And while not much can be gleaned from the first preseason game due to the teams’ starters barely playing at all, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things to focus on as the Browns begin their bid to escape the AFC North basement.

1. Brock Osweiler’s play at quarterback.

Osweiler was named the starting quarterback by coach Hue Jackson on Monday, leapfrogging incumbent second-year player Cody Kessler. The move to drop Kessler isn’t a total surprise because of Kessler’s poor play this summer. Osweiler has impressed coaches since he walked in the building and his experience in Denver and Houston is paying off against three other less experienced signal-callers.

However, Jackson made it clear one of the deciding factors in making Osweiler the starter is that Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer can get more work in this first preseason game. There is plenty of time for Osweiler to lose the starting spot before Week 1, so his limited performance in this game  is still important.

2. How dialed in will the defense be?

The Browns brought in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to improve a defense that lacked the ability to stop the run or hold a lead during two years under former head coach Mike Pettine (a defensive coach) and last year under former defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Williams is certainly a vast change from those two coaches. But how will his coaching style show up in the preseason? Will the defense be more aggressive or will Williams save a lot of his more advanced packages for when the games really matter?

3. How will Kizer fare?

Kizer is listed third in the depth chart for this game. Meaning that if Osweiler gets one possession as the starter, Kessler should play most of the first and second quarter. Kizer likely will either come in sometime in the second quarter or start the second half of the game against second and third string players. This is a chance for Kizer to show how much he has learned so far this summer and how his talent matches up against backups.

If he does well, it would certainly boost his chances of starting sooner rather than later. If not, then it will show that he does indeed still need a lot of work before Jackson can turn the offense over to him officially.

The end result of this game doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but this is an important step in the Browns’ rebuilding process this season.

Cleveland Browns season breakdown: Games 13-16

After a miserable 1-15 campaign in 2016, the Browns are hoping to show signs of progress in their new rebuild. This is the last part in a series where I  break down the Browns’ schedule by each four-game “quarter”. These are my predictions as of right now. Of course, things tend to change a lot week-to-week during the NFL season.

Game 13: Green Bay at Cleveland

The final stretch is not an easy one. It begins with a home tilt against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. At this point, the Browns will likely be eliminated from postseason contention while the Packers should be playing for another division title.

Prediction: Packers 38, Browns 20. Record: 4-9

Game 14: Baltimore at Cleveland

I’d like to think this is the year the Browns can break out against the Ravens after several near-misses. However, the Ravens will probably be much better at this point of the year.

Prediction: Ravens 24, Browns 10. Record: 4-10

Game 15: Cleveland at Chicago

It will be the Browns against hometown hero Mitchell Trubisky, the quarterback the Browns likely would have drafted if Myles Garrett wasn’t the consensus No. 1 pick. Unfortunately for Trubisky, the Bears are terrible and the Browns should easily win this one.

Prediction: Browns 30, Bears 17. Record: 5-10

Game 16: Cleveland at Pittsburgh

By this point, the Steelers should have wrapped up another division title and a postseason berth. But as we saw last year, even if they rest their starters, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a Browns win.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Browns 14. Record: 5-11

 

Poor QB play opens door for Kizer

The Browns held their annual Orange and Brown scrimmage for fans at First Energy Stadium on Friday. The results for the offense were less than stellar.

The scrimmage featured no touchdowns by the offense. This was largely due to poor play by quarterbacks Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and rookie DeShone Kizer. This continued a trend of less-than-stellar quarterback play, particularly from Kessler, this summer.

Browns coach Hue Jackson conceded on Saturday that a change might be made on Monday before the Browns prepare for their preseason opener against the Saints in Cleveland. All signs point to Kizer, despite his growing pains, becoming the starter over Kessler, who was given the nod due to his experience in the offense last season.

By all accounts this summer, Kizer has displayed the better arm and talent in the quarterback race. He has not been without his rookie ups-and-downs. During the scrimmage, he missed a wide-open Duke Johnson in the end zone on a throw he admitted he has to make.

But Kizer is clearly the team’s future. Kessler still looks like a good backup quarterback while Osweiler is still likely going to be trade bait.

If Kizer is indeed named the starter for the preseason opener and can hold the starting spot the rest of the preseason, the Browns may or may not win more games than they would under Kessler or Osweiler, but it should bode well for the team moving forward.

Cleveland Browns season breakdown: Games 9-12

After a miserable 1-15 campaign in 2016, the Browns are hoping to show signs of progress in their new rebuild. This is the third part in a series where I  break down the Browns’ schedule by each four-game “quarter”. These are my predictions as of right now. Of course, things tend to change a lot week-to-week during the NFL season.

Game 9: Cleveland at Detroit

Coming out of the bye week after their trip to London, the Browns should be rested and well-prepared for a Lions team that despite having Matt Stafford at quarterback, isn’t much better than the Browns at this point. If things go right, I can certainly see the Browns stealing a game here.

Prediction: Browns 24, Lions 21. Record: 4-5

Game 10: Jacksonville at Cleveland

Something crazy always seems to happen when these two former AFC Central division teams meet up. The Jaguars seemingly have been on the cusp of being a playoff team for a couple of years now but have not gotten over the hump. But still, I think Jacksonville will be too much for the Browns here.

Prediction: Jaguars 30, Browns 17. Record: 4-6

Game 11: Cleveland at Cincinnati

I gave the Browns the edge in their meeting in Cleveland in my analysis of the first four games. I’m going to give the Bengals the split here.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 21. Record: 4-7

Game 12: Cleveland at Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers had the distinction of being the only team to lose to the Browns last season. However, that was at home in December. Now, the Browns have to travel across the country to face the Chargers in Carson, Calif. The Chargers should be ready for some payback here.

Prediction: Chargers 23, Browns 17. Record: 4-8

Smooth first day of training camp for Browns

The bikes were empty. And that’s a great thing.

 

Fans and Cleveland media have often called training camp “Tour de Berea” because of all the injured players on exercise bikes, even on the first day of camp.

But on Wednesday, Browns coach Hue Jackson remarked that the team was 100 percent healthy coming into training camp. He was proven right Thursday when all players showed up healthy and practicing and not on bikes.

This includes No. 1-overall pick Myles Garrett and second-year wide receiver Corey Coleman, who both were sidelined by injuries at the end of Organized Team Activities.

For a franchise that has seen its share of first-day calamities, by all accounts this was a smooth, drama-free opening to camp in Jackson’s second season.

Garrett made backup offensive linemen look foolish. Second-year quarterback Cody Kessler, not known for having a big arm, threw a 40-yard touchdown to free-agent addition Kenny Britt.  There were no major injuries, aside from the expected hot summer day cramps. Jackson said the team is “a step better than a year ago.”

For some franchises, a smooth opening to training camp isn’t a big deal. For a Browns team in year two of a major rebuild, it’s a big deal.

Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who is vying to prove he is the quarterback of the future, was even the last one on the field after practice going through the play sheet and directing invisible players. The work ethic is very much appreciated a mere two years after the antics of former first-round pick Johnny Manziel.

Of course, there is a long way to go before the start of the NFL regular season. But for these young Browns, a step forward at the start of camp is a big plus.

Cleveland Browns training camp battles: Quarterback

It’s the song that never ends.

The Browns have been looking for a franchise quarterback since they came back into the league in 1999. Really since even before that when then-coach Bill Belichick released Bernie Kosar and made Vinny Testaverde the starter.

After the team made an offseason trade and used another draft pick on a quarterback, chances are good another name is going to be added to the infamous jersey list.

Gone from last year are the ineffective Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. In are Brock Osweiler (via trade from the Texans in addition to a second-round pick) and second-round pick DeShone Kizer out of Notre Dame. Returning are second-year players Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.

The quarterback competition this summer is wide open. Kessler is the incumbent and starter heading into camp according to coach Hue Jackson. But Osweiler has the most NFL starting experience in his time in Denver and Houston and impressed coaches in OTAs. Kizer also reportedly has been impressive and is learning at a fast rate this summer.

Kessler knows the system the best. Osweiler has the experience. Kizer has the best arm and is the most likely to be the quarterback of the future.

The best case scenario heading into September is Kizer proves to be ready to be the Week 1 starter and becomes this year’s Dak Prescott. If he plays the majority of the season and shows improvement as the year goes on, it will put a lot of pressure off the organization to find “the one.” Osweiler can then become trade bait if a contending team suffers an injury at the quarterback position.

Worst case is Kizer is not ready. Kessler or Osweiler start but either struggle or suffer injury early and the quarterback carousel begins anew again. My guess is, Kizer wins the battle. What happens after that remains a mystery.

Position grade: Incomplete

Osweiler and Kizer should be upgrades to Griffin and McCown. But can anyone prove this season that they are the future of this franchise?

 

Cleveland Browns season breakdown: Games 5-8

After a miserable 1-15 campaign in 2016, the Browns are hoping to show signs of progress in their new rebuild. This is the second part in a series where I  break down the Browns’ schedule by each four-game “quarter”. These are my predictions as of right now. Of course, things tend to change a lot week-to-week during the NFL season.

Game 5: New York Jets at Cleveland

If things don’t go as well as I predicted in the first four games for the Browns, this could be the battle for next year’s No. 1 overall pick. The Jets are beginning a rebuild similar to what the Browns did last season so their roster is very, very thin. The Browns will be facing former quarterback Josh McCown in this game. With the Browns a year into their rebuild, I like their roster a lot better.

Prediciton: Browns 24, Jets 13. Record: 3-2!!!!!

Game 6: Cleveland at Houston

The Browns likely will be facing off against the quarterback they passed up on in Deshaun Watson in this game. The Texans are so loaded on defense and Watson has so many more weapons on offense than the Browns have. This one probably will be over early.

Prediction: Texans 33, Browns 14. Record: 3-3

Game 7: Tennessee at Cleveland

The Titans are my pick to win the AFC South this season. They are where the Browns should be in the next year or so, but the Browns aren’t there yet. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Titans edged out the Browns last season. Look for a similar result this year.

Prediction: Titans 28, Browns 21. Record: 3-4

Game 8: Minnesota vs. Cleveland (at Twickenham Stadium in London)

The Browns gave up a home game to play overseas in London against the Vikings. They don’t even get to play in Wembley Stadium, either. Underdogs haven’t fared well in these games, and while the Vikings aren’t title contenders at this point, I like them in this matchup.

Prediction: Vikings 20, Browns 17. Record: 3-5.