Thursday, August 15, 2013

Browns Beat Up Lions, 24-6, But Get Beaten Up Too

  Yeah, I'm an old guy, but I love it when the Browns and Lions play even if it is an exhibition game.  In the 1950s and 1960s the Browns and Lions were great rivals, so it was good to play some old friends.

   The good news is that the Browns completely dominated the Lions when the first strings were both there.   Much criticism has been thrown at Browns qb Brandon Weeden, but the fact of the matter is that he played well last year and looks a little better this year.  His receivers are significantly better.   I think they are going to get some yards through the air this year. On this day, he had an unbelievable throw to Josh Gordon, and was on the money to tight end Jordan Cameron twice for touchdowns.   Frankly the Browns looked great through the air and although they don't have All-Pros in the passing game, they don't have a real weakness there either.  For that matter, backup Jason Campbell has done nothing wrong this year either.
    On the ground, Trent Richardson was just fine, but the Browns looked a little lost in short yardage.  They got one decent block from Chris Ogbonnaya at fullback, but otherwise fullback was silent today (one thing I hate about tv coverage of football is they don't give you the opportunity to see what formation the offense is in.  I don't know how many plays used a fullback.  But I do know they didn't do well in short yardage.

Trent Richardson looked unstoppable, but Coach Chud wisely took him out early.  

Halfback Dion Lewis did well catching balls out of the backfield, and made a few yards on the ground, but was injured in the second half, breaking his leg.  He'll be out indefinitely, which is too bad because it looked like he was headed to number two on the depth chart behind Richardson.

Dion Lewis was also explosive, but injured his ankle.  

On defense, the front seven generally bullied the Lions.  Matthew Stafford & Co. were under pressure and had balls batted down and a few were nearly intercepted by the Browns big line and linebackers. The secondary was good but great, and note that the Lions were not playing their big threat in Calvin Johnson.    

The Browns gang tackled and dominated the line of scrimmage.  

The main issue is that a lot of guys got banged up today.  In addition to Lewis' injury, they had injuries to TE Gary Barnidge, LB Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung), and G Shawn Lauvao.  Hopefully they will be back soon as all of these player were doing well.  

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Village Elliot's New Los Angeles Conspiracy Theory

    Los Angeles NFL conspiracy theory?  Actually it's not even that much of a conspiracy, as it is blatantly obvious. The  owners of  crappy NFL teams (and even a few good ones) are threatening to move their teams to Los Angeles unless they get millions of dollars in stadium improvements, or in some cases entirely new stadiums.  This has had the effect of scaring local politicians, who are now scurrying to satisfy the whims of greedy NFL owners.  

     Commissioner Roger Goodell has laid out a procedure for NFL teams to relocate to Los Angeles.  It is going to  happen, it's just a question of when.  

Commissioner Goodell has laid out the procedure for an NFL team to move to Los Angeles. photo:

     Recently, Jerry Jones, the flamboyant owner of the Dallas Cowboys, indicated that not one but TWO teams may move to Los Angeles, setting off a flurry of speculation on which teams are interested.  I do not think that Jones' remarks were casually or hastily spoken.  Rather, it's more likely that this was a calculated move to allow current team owners to extract more money from local governments to upgrade football stadiums.  

Jerry Jones says that TWO NFL teams may move to Los Angeles.  He won't say which teams are interested.  Photo:

     The St Louis Rams used to play in Los Angeles, and they have a deal which allows them to get out of their lease if they don't have a top dollar stadium.  Well, guess what?  They are demanding hundreds of millions of dollars from the good people of St. Louis, and if they don't get it they are threatening to return to Los Angeles.  Frankly the Rams have been so bad in recent years that the fans might just let them go.  

     Other teams that have Los Angeles connections are the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers, both of whom have also played in Los Angeles.   And yes, both of them have let it be known that they are interested in moving unless they get a sweetheart deal on upgraded stadiums in their current location.  

    Ditto the awful Jacksonville Jaguars, who are owned by an out-of-town owner with no significant connection to Jacksonville.  

     Even the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dissatisfied with their current stadiums and are seeking millions of dollars to upgrade their current digs.   

     All in all, Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones are likely going to bring upwards of a billion dollars worth of new stadiums and improvements to old ones. The threat of moving to Los Angeles is driving these upgrades.  And then some team will move to Los Angeles anyway.  

     As a football fan, I am wary about owners in general. I believe Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, like all the other NFL owners, might have been approached by groups from Los Angeles offering hundreds of millions of dollars additional profit in order to get the team.  The main difficulty would be to find a way to legally break the lease with the City of Cleveland which would have to happen in order to move+ the team.  

Browns Win First Preseason Game vs Rams, 27-19

Preseason Game 1 Photos
Cleveland played better than the Rams overall, with Brandon Weeden leading a diversified passing attack.  Photo: .  

Well, let's not go crazy over an exhibition game, in which the Browns beat an inconsistent Saint Louis Rams team, 27-19.  But a win is better than a loss! And the Browns regulars outplayed the Rams regulars overall, which is also a good sign.

Here are a few takeaways from the game.

1.  The Browns quarterback situation is very solid if not spectacular.  Brandon Weeden played well on a bad team last year, and he will probably play better for a better team this year.  All three Browns qbs played well, and I think both Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer can win games as an NFL starter if Weeden should go down.

Preseason Game 1 Photos
Jason Campbell was 6 for 7, with one dropped ball by Chris Ogbonnaya.  Not too shabby.  Photo: .

2.  The Browns receiving corps is much deeper than last year.  Travis Benjamin, Greg Little and Jordan Norwood made some good plays, and they got some good mileage from tight ends Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge as well.  Benjamin also took a punt return to the house, blowing away the Rams coverage team.  

3.  The Browns have some depth at running back, which is a good thing since Trent Richardson and Montario Hardesty were both banged up.  Brandon Jackson and Dion Lewis were both great catching passes out of the backfield, and ran hard against a good Rams defense.  It makes me wonder why former Coach Shurmur would never play Jackson, who gained 700 yards for the Packers in 2010.  I'll bet Coach Chud and Norv Turner figure out ways to get him in the lineup. However, the Browns did not play a fullback much.  Chris Ogbonnaya lined up there sometimes, while incumbent Owen Marecic did not see much action and might be on his way out.  But without a big fullback, the Browns are not going to run the ball all that well.  Shurmur and former GM Tom Heckert thought Trent Richardson would be the next Adrian Peterson, but not without a blocking fullback, dudes.  I think the Browns are going to pass a lot more than they run in 2013, with Richardson, Jackson and Lewis catching a lot of passes out of the backfield.  Montario Hardesty, another back much loved by Heckert, ran well at times the past two years but struggled with blocking and pass catching.  With multiple knee surgeries, he may not even make the team, and it would not shock me if the Browns come up with a free agent fullback by the end of training camp.  

Training Camp Photo Gallery - 8/6
Dion Lewis ran well and caught the ball out of the backfield.  Photo:

4.  Barkevious Mingo and Billy Winn stood out among defensive linemen, though in general the Browns had trouble putting consistent pressure on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who had time to unload some major bombs against the Browns.  As Browns announcer Bernie Kosar noted, the Rams receivers had trouble catching the ball, otherwise they could have really shredded the Browns weak secondary.  Let's see, in order to have all of these fancy blitzes and stuff, don't you need some defensive backs who are good enough to play man-to-man with NFL receivers?  As it was, in his brief time in the game, Bradford completed 5 of 8 passes for 102 yards and a TD for a passer rating of 145.8 (are you kidding me?) and it could have been much worse.    

Preseason Game 1 Photos
Barkevious Mingo was outstanding in his first pre-season game.   Photo:

Conventional thinking is that the Browns are going to play great defense, and will run the ball a lot with a struggling passing game.  However, the Village Elliot  is not so sure.   Based on early returns, the Browns defense is very thin, and they are going to get burned if they rush five and six guys a lot.  On offense, they may find it easier to pass the ball a lot while the running game may struggle without a quality fullback.