Browns, Bucs Square off in Dress Rehersal

MAY 1, 2015 - TAMPA, FLORIDA: Tampa Bay Buccaneers first round draft pick Quarterback Jameis Winston #3. Photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We are 15 days away from the Browns season opener against the New York Jets and tonight will be the last time fans get to see the first-team players on the field for a significant portion of the game until then.  A week filled with headlines about Johnny Manziel’s elbow can now finally end with some actual football.

The Browns will look to win their first preseason game in Tampa after losing both their home preseason games to the Redskins and Bills.  Tonight’s game will be an opportunity for some veterans with guaranteed jobs to polish their game before the season starts, and an opportunity for some guys with a lot to prove to make a statement that they belong on the roster.

One of these players with much to prove is former quarterback converted wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. Pryor has yet to play in a preseason game and this could be his final shot to show he deserves a spot to play in Cleveland on Sundays.

Another player who has missed both preseason games so far is rookie running back Duke Johnson. The Browns running back situation has not looked as clear cut as it seemed at the start of camp, as Isaiah Crowell has not played well in the first two preseason games, and Terrence West had a solid game last Thursday against Buffalo.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that if Johnson has a big game tonight, he could end up being a workhorse running back for this team, since no one has taken hold of the number one running back spot convincingly.

Cleveland is never in a good situation when it comes to quarterbacks, and tonight Josh McCown will look to ease some of the panic among Browns fans.  McCown goes up against his former team, where he played last season and ended up with a 1-10 record in 11 starts.  He will likely play deep into the third quarter and Thad Lewis will finish out the game.

The Buccaneers start number one overall draft pick Jameis Winston, who was impressive last week against the Bengals. This could be the best chance we have to judge both of these teams and both of these quarterbacks until the regular season starts, as most of preseason there is extremely limited time given to first-team players to see game action.

The theme of the preseason is to stay healthy, and the Browns in that regard have not exactly passed with flying colors, but aside from that being the main hope of the night, the battle with the Bucs should be as good a measuring stick as any thus far to see where this team is at heading into the 2015 season.

Browns, Bills Prepare for Primetime Preseason Action

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The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills head to Cleveland after two days of inter-squad practice at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York (home of the Bills training camp), and will kick off Thursday night at 8 PM at First Energy Stadium.

The game will be aired nationally on ESPN with the Monday Night Football broadcast crew and like last year, backup quarterback Johnny Manziel will be in the spotlight. The game will air locally on WKYC Channel 3 for those without cable.

Manziel had a solid preseason opener and by all reports has performed better this year in training camp than he did as a rookie.  The second preseason game of the 2015 season should give him an opportunity to play at least a quarter, if not more.

Starting quarterback Josh McCown has been exceptional thus far in training camp and one preseason game and the Browns will look to get some more cohesiveness with the first string offense Thursday night against a tough Buffalo defense.

Although the Browns did not perform well Monday in drills against the Bills, particularly the Browns secondary versus the Bills wide receivers, they followed it up with a much better day Tuesday.

Preseason games are vital for seeing who will make the cut, getting the team familiar with the playbook, and shaking off the rust, but above all the main goal of the preseason is to make it through with as many players in good physical condition as possible. The Browns enter Thursday night with a long list of injuries.

The offensive side of the ball will not feature hyped up former Buckeye Terrelle Pryor, who has been dealing with hamstring issues for the past couple weeks and has not played  much of training camp including the preseason opener against Washington.  Veteran wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is also expected to miss Thursday night’s game along with third-round draft-pick Duke Johnson.

The area of biggest concern for the Browns in terms of injuries heading into Thursday night is the secondary.  Cornerbacks Justin Gilbert, Joe Haden, Pierre Desir and K’waun Williams all missed Tuesday evening’s practice against Buffalo, but the good news is that if it were a meaningful game they all would most likely be able to play.  The Browns want to excercise caution in the preseason and keep the team as healthy as possible heading into opening day in roughly three weeks.

 

Bud Light Kicks Off NFL Season With New Browns Cans

Cleveland Browns Bud Light Can

Just in time for NFL Kick-Off, Bud Light – the Official Beer of the NFL – is bringing a new Browns Bud Light can to Cleveland. The new packaging features Browns colors, as well as a slogan every Browns fan can relate to: The perfect beer for being Dawg Pound proud.

Bud Light worked closely with its NFL team partners to create new can designs for the 28 teams that it is partners with for the 2015-2016 season. Each design features a customized scroll message that speaks directly to each team’s passionate fan base. The cans are on shelves now.

What do you think of the new Bud Light Browns can?

Browns Get Ready to Kick Off for First Time in 227 Days

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The Cleveland Browns host the Washington Redskins Thursday night in their preseason opener. Most of the players on the field by the time the game ends will be unrecognizable, but aside from getting through the game with as few injuries as possible, here are some things to watch for.

 

1. 23rd Time’s A Charm?

Cleveland’s quarterback woes have been well-documented since 1999. 22 men have entered, and not one of them has left unscathed or latched on to have long-term success on the shores of Lake Erie.

Next in line for the quarterback carousel is veteran Josh McCown. McCown signed a three-year deal with the Browns in March after having an atrocious 2014 season with Tampa Bay, in which the Bucaneers went 1-10 in games started by McCown.

GM Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine hope that a change of scenery and what many believe will be a better position for McCown to succeed will lead to results closer to two years ago in Chicago.

By all accounts from those who attend training camp, McCown has had a good preseason up to this point. Browns’ all-pro left tackle Joe Thomas was recently asked what gave him the most excitement going into this season, and Thomas responded that he was “beyond impressed” with McCown since March.

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2. The Polynesian Squash

Danny Shelton, the 6’2″ 339 lb. nose tackle selected 12th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft is poised to make a big impact in Cleveland. The Browns finished dead last in the NFL in rushing defense in 2014, allowing an average of 141.6 yards per game. Shelton recorded 9 sacks his senior year at Washington University, and if this team is going to rely on a formula of great defense and running the football, a great rookie season by a top draft pick will be a key component.

Linebacker Paul Krueger compared Shelton to former Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and given the poor performance of recent first-round draft picks in Cleveland, anything close to that production will be outstanding.

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3. All Business. No Money Sign.

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Johnny Manziel has had a relatively quiet offseason up to this point, which in the case of Johnny Football, no news is good news.  Manziel has recommitted himself to football and has made strides both on and off the field to better himself personally and as a player.

All that said, he has a steep hill to climb from how far he fell in the 2014 season. Several good practices and a good scrimmage in Columbus are positive signs, and Manziel will look to keep the positivity going Thursday night against the Redskins, ironically the same team he  played against in his second NFL preseason game and made headlines by making an obscene gesture towards the Redskins bench.

Manziel has sworn off the money sign and appears to have a different attitude and demeanor going into this season, but public speaking and promoting his brand were never a problem for the 22-year-old. Ultimately it’s what he does on the field that will win him back in the good graces of his teammates fully and rebuild some respect with a fan base that was let down by the hype and promise of the former Heisman in his rookie season.

 

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Thursday night’s game will just be an appetizer, like all of the four preseason games leading up to the regular season for hungry fans in Cleveland, a city starving for a championship in any sport, and unmatched in passion for its football team. Taken into perspective, this game will have little meaning, but simply seeing the orange helmets against an opposing team will be a sign of the start of another football season in the heartland of America.

 

 

Could the Browns Have Their Eyes on Former Ravens RB Ray Rice?

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The Browns have issues at the running back spot, and those issues could be so desperate that the team may actually bring in former Ravens running back Ray Rice as a possible solution.

Don Banks of Sports Illustrated wrote the following today about the Browns and Rice possibly being a connection:

No critical mass has been reached in Cleveland’s backfield just yet, but with the Browns clearly dissatisfied with their young rushers early this preseason, file away the Browns as one of the more logical and likely landing spots for former Baltimore running back Ray Rice.

Browns coach Mike Pettine acknowledged to SI.com Tuesday that the club has discussed signing Rice, who has been out of the league since being released by Baltimore last September, the day the infamous elevator surveillance camera footage of his attack on his then fiancee surfaced.

Pettine was asked if the Browns were considering adding a veteran to the mix at running back, to go with second-year players Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West and rookie third-round pick Duke Johnson. “We’ve talked about it, but I don’t think we’re there at this point,” Pettine said.

It sounds like there’s a number of ‘what ifs’ about the Browns and Rice possibly being a match, but at the same time, even talking about it shows just how bad the Browns feel about their current crop of running backs, and how they want to get someone on the field that can take over the running back spot before the opener in New York vs the Jets.

Video: Can Manziel Win the Starting QB Job for the Browns?

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The crew at ESPN chat about the biggest question of Browns training camp, that being if QB Johnny Manziel can win the starting QB job.

The “Biggest Gut-Punch Loss” in Browns History? SI Has One Everyone Remembers

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Sports Illustrated has put out a piece on the “Biggest gut-punch loss” for each and every franchise, the Browns included.

The game that the author the piece, Doug Farrar, picked is one that everyone can recall, the famous ‘Fumble’ from the 1988 AFC Title Game – the second of three losses to the Broncos.

Cleveland Browns: Jan. 17, 1988, AFC championship—Broncos 38, Browns 33

The first of three AFC teams on our list coached by Marty Schottenheimer. Denver got past the Browns in the AFC championship game a year earlier thanks to John Elway’s famous drive. In the 1987 rematch, Denver jumped out to a 21–3 lead, but Cleveland quarterback Bernie Kosar threw three touchdown passes to bring his team back. One of those scoring throws was to running back Earnest Byner, and Byner also rushed for a four-yard touchdown in the third quarter. However, with the Browns driving late in the game, down 38–31, Byner fumbled the ball at the Denver two-yard line, stripped by Denver defensive back Jeremiah Castille.

The Broncos recovered and gave the Browns an intentional safety to essentially end the game.

“Earnest never saw Castille coming,” Schottenheimer later told ESPN. “Earnest was the reason we were still in the game at that point. He had several heroic runs and catches over the course of the second half that allowed us to have a chance to tie the game at 38. All of these heroics, unfortunately, were overshadowed by a single draw play from the eight-yard-line.”

It’s a shame, too, because Byner was a great player who rushed for more than 8,000 yards in his career, and eventually got a Super Bowl ring with the 1991 Redskins. But that’s the play for which he’ll always be remembered—the biggest gut-punch for a franchise that has had more than its share.

Even though it was tough, most Browns fans probably to this day will still argue the year before the game known as “The Drive” was even tougher as the Browns had a 20-13 lead and were at home for that AFC Championship Game.

Power Struggle Appears Brewing Between Browns Coach Pettine and GM Farmer

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns

According to a report from Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, the departure of the Browns’ former director of player engagement (Dr. Jamil Northcutt) may be the first public sign of a power struggle between the team’s coach, Mike Pettine, and general manager, Ray Farmer, Jared Dubin of CBS Sports reports.

Northcutt was a nonentity to fans. A former college linebacker at the University of Mississippi, he didn’t make (or miss) a tackle, or directly influence what happened on game days.

But in the politics of Browns football, Northcutt was an inordinately major “player” in the 2014 season – a confidante of GM Ray Farmer and, it turned out, a thorn in the side of Mike Pettine’s coaching staff.

And Northcutt’s ouster – which the club is characterizing as a mutual parting – reflects a seeping rift between Pettine and the GM who is facing a four-game suspension for breaking NFL rules by texting, and badgering, coaches in the press box booth during games.

According to the report, Northcutt may or may not have been the recipient of Farmer’s game day text messages, and may or may not have then relayed some of those messages to the coaching staff on the sideline. (The report cites one source that says he was the recipient, and another that denied that was the case.) Additionally, the report cited “stories” of Northcutt’s sideline confrontations with both offensive and defensive coaches on separate occasions.

There is a story of Northcutt having a confrontation with defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil during that horrible 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans on Nov. 16, in which nondescript Houston running backs Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes combined for 49 carries and 210 yards on the ground. O’Neil did not take kindly to Northcutt’s intrusion during the difficult day, sources said.

There is also a story of Northcutt having a “conversation” with offensive line coach Andy Moeller concerning the non-use of reserve guard Vinston Painter after the injury to center Alex Mack. According to a source, that was outside the boundaries of Northcutt’s job description.