Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Browns Defense is Not All That

      Gee it's Christmas, and I have a lot to be grateful for...but instead I am going to complain a little about our favorite team.  Most of my friends and even the national media seem to agree that the 2013 Browns defense is way improved over the boring 2012 Shurmur-Jauron version.  But if you look at the numbers, we have given up way more points this year than last year (386 with one game to go, versus 368 surrendered last year), and are actually scoring a little bit more.   

   This season, I have complained loud and long about the Browns shutting down their rebuilding program after the scandal at Pilot Flying J hit (the company owned by Jimmy Haslam III), so that the Browns led the NFL in dollars under the salary cap, currently at about $24 million.  You can get 10 NFL starters for that kind of money.  But let's talk about  some of the specifics.  

     Our defense can stop the run and sack the quarterback, but if we don't get him we are pretty much getting torched through the air.  The Browns added some quality players (notably Kruger, Bryant, and Mingo), but we got rid of a lot of middle-tier situational players.  That has hurt a lot.  
     Early on, the Browns had an interesting concept.  They had 3 guys on the line in Bryant, Ruben and Taylor who had actually played nose tackle.  Then they took two pass rushing defensive ends and turned them into outside linebackers in Sheards and Mingo.  Likewise, Paul Kruger was originally a defensive end who was switched to linebacker by the Ravens.  So  for a while they were about the biggest, scariest pass rushers in the NFL.  But after a while the rest of the league figured out what to do about it.  Namely, the LBs are not that good in pass coverage, and they are thin in the defensive backfield if the other team uses a 3 or 4 or even 5 wide receiver set.   Now the Browns look slow and plodding as opposing quarterbacks slice them up almost at will.  

Paul Kruger has been a very fine football player for the Browns this year, generating sacks and playing well against the run as well.  

Barkevious Mingo has been an athletic and sometimes spectacular player at linebacker.   


Desmond Bryant was a force for the Browns on the line, until a heart problem put him on IR.  We hope and pray that surgery will prolong his life, as our first concern.  But if the surgery is fully successful,  we will see him back on the field in 2014.    

The Browns players seem to love playing for Defensive Coordination Ray Horton.  But although they have improved in some areas, so far the defense has not responded overall.  

    Buster Skrine gets my vote as the most improved Brown in 2013.  In the past, opposing offenses would rarely throw at Joe Haden, so instead 90% of the passes were to Buster's man. That made him look worse than he actually was. But this year, Skrine has 19 passes defended and an interception alongside Haden, with 20 PDs and 4 INTs.   

Buster Skrine has become a reliable number two corner alongside Joe Haden.   

     Behind Skrine, things get murky.  The Browns second highest draft pack was Leon McFadden in the third round.  But so far the youngster has struggled.  He has not been credited with a single pass defended and only 14 total tackles. 
    What the Browns don't do well is play the pass, especially with linebackers in pass coverage.   Worse, if opponents play extra wide receivers, the Browns are not able to substitute extra defensive backs effectively.  

   So what have we got here?   The Browns added some quality players and subtracted some middle-range players from defense, while reverting to the 3-4 defensive alignment.   But they are giving up more points than the "boring" Shurmur-Jauron defense.  To sum up, the Browns have talent but not depth, especially in the defensive backfield. They could also use some situational linebackers that are better at pass coverage and pursuit even if they are not great pass rushers.   In some ways they are markedly improved, but as a unit the Defense is perhaps a little worse than it was in 2012.  Sorry to say so, but that is the truth.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

NFL: Here is How to Reduce the Number of Tie Games

  The NFL hates tie games.  More precisely, the TV networks hate it, because they need predictability in order to schedule programming, and overtime messes with that.  But everyone hates tie games, so that obliges the NFL to play several overtime games per year.  

   My suggestion is that most of these ties in regulation can be prevented by a simple rule change:  

Don't allow teams to kick the ball to create a tie in the fourth quarter.  If a team is behind by three points, don't allow the other team to kick a field goal.  Make them go for the touchdown.  It's much more exciting anyways to see the quarterback throw a Hail Mary pass into the end zone rather than watch a field goal kicker boot the ball. 

At the end of the game, wouldn't you rather see this, instead of an attempted field goal?  

Similarly, if a team is behind by seven points and they score a fourth down touchdown, don't allow them to kick an extra point to send the game into overtime.  Make them try to score the two point conversion for the win right there.  This is almost a same chance of success anyway.  The stats show that the chances of making a two point play are about 45%.  If you go to overtime, it's 50-50 whether your team will win.  

In the 4th Quarter, teams should have to go for the win, not the tie.   Go for two!

    It would still be possible to have a tie game, but the likelihood will decrease significantly.  For example, you could still have a tie game if the score is initially tied prior to the fourth quarter, and stays tied throughout the fourth quarter.  Or, suppose some team is down by two points and they score a safety.  Or if a team is down by 8 points, they could get a touchdown and a 2 point conversion to tie. 

   If you want to be really fanatical about it, you could impose the rule earlier, so that even in the first half you would have to go for it on fourth down rather than kick a field goal to tie it.

    The extra point is the most boring play in football, anyway.  Why not give teams a reason to go for two more often?  Stop having so many tie games in regulation, and everyone will be happy.   

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Big 10 Championship Could Go Overtime--Buckeyes vs Spartans

I'm very excited to be attending the Big 10 Championship Game tonight between the Michigan State University Spartans and The Ohio State University Buckeyes.   I think this game could go either way.

Ohio State is ripe for an upset.  The fans are utterly complacent, figuring that it is an automatic win and that the entire issue is whether OSU will have enough momentum in the polls to beat Auburn and SEC (Sacred Ego Conference).  The answer:  YES OSU WILL GET THE INVITE TO THE CHAMPIOSHIP BUT ONLY IF WE WIN THE **** GAME!

In this situation, the favored team just wants to get to the next game, which would be for the National Championship.  On the other hand, for the underdog THIS game will be the highlight of the season, win or lose.  The psychology of the situation favors the Spartans.  

Michigan Sate is just as good as Ohio State.  They have a the top defense in the nation statistically, and they stop the run, which is Ohio State's specialty.  Michigan State lost a close game to Notre Dame, or otherwise they would be undefeated like OSU.  Moreover, OSU eked out a 42-41 win over over the Michigan Wolverines.  Michigan State, on the other hand, destroyed the  Wolverines this year, 29-6.  

Michigan State's defense does not generate huge stats.  They get their share of sacks and interceptions, but mainly the opponents don't move the ball against them and they don't score very often.  They are  led by the likes of All-Everything shutdown cornerback Darqueze Dennard,  all-Big 10 Defensive  End Shilique Calhoun and all-Big 10 middle linebacker Max Bullough.  But there are no weaknesses on their defense.

Darqueze Dennard is a shutdown cornerback.

Number 89, Shilique Calhoun bringing down the Wolverines Devin Gardner. 

Middle Linebacker Max Bullough was also All-Big 10 and wishes to show some Spartan Pride come Saturday night.  

Safety Kurtis Drummond hauls in one of his four interceptionsr.

OSU, on the other hand, was vulnerable to the outside run against Michigan, and was not able to contain Michigan's receivers.  That will have to be fixed to survive Michigan State.  Running back Jeremy Langford is not a power runner, but likes the outside, which is not good for OSU.  The Spartans' passing game does not pile up huge statistics either, but Connor Cook threw only four interceptions for the entire year.  

I have to think that Michigan State is at least a point better than Michigan.  I rate this game as even.  It could go overtime.   

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mock 2014 NFL Draft

    One thing I'm sure about is that the Cleveland Browns will draft a quarterback.  Bad teams, and greedy owners are always fascinated by quarterbacks, especially those with unusual physical gifts.  The Browns are expected to lose Alex Mack to free agency, and currently Joe Thomas is the only other Brown who can block.   
         Next year they will need four new offensive linemen to protect the quarterback.  But if they don't get them, they will draft a kid quarterback anyway, and probably they will trade up if they have to in order to get one.  There won't be any money to upgrade the line and the rest of the team until the Pilot Flying J scandal is resolved and the Haslam family fortune is restored.  So whoever the Browns put back there will certainly be annihilated like Brian Hoyer (ACL), Jason Campbell (concussion), and Brandon Weeden (thumb, concussion). The Browns lead the league in hits on their quarterback by a a wide margin, and are number two in sacks allowed.

     Right now the Browns occupy the 7th position in the NFL draft, and there are some quarterback-cuckoo teams ahead of them including Jacksonville, Minnesota and Tampa Bay.  But Atlanta has a quarterback, and would be willing to trade their pick to Cleveland in exchange for about three first round picks (the ransom paid by the Redskins for  Robert Griffin III, who was pretty good for the second half of the season last year, before getting his knee torn up).  

1.  Jacksonville Jaguars will take QB Teddy Bridgewater.  Like the Browns, Jacksonville has an awful team and will certainly destroy Bridgewater.  But they will be happy to draft him for now.

2.  The Minnesota Vikings will take Fresno State QB Derek Carr, replacing Christian Ponder, who has achieved Antichrist status in Minnesota.  But the Vikings have some talent, so perhaps they may win a few games and drop down in the draft.

3.  The Atlanta Falcons still believe in Matt Ryan, and so they will deal their pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the Browns two Number Ones this year, and another one in 2015.  The Browns will take Johnny Manziel and ruin him.  

4.  Tampa Bay will be willing to wait while LSU QB Zack Mettenberger recovers from an ACL indury.

5.  The Houston Texans are weary of Matt Schaub and may want to go with a quarterback  but if the Browns trade up,  OT Jake Matthews from Texas A&M will pacify them.  
6.  The St Louis Rams will take South Caroline DE Jadeveon Clowney based on his upside potential, overlooking his off the field issues.

7.  The Atlanta Falcons, using the Browns pick, select OSU LB Ryan Shazier to stabilize their defense. 

8.  The Tennesee Titans draft UCLA Linebacker Anthony Barr.

9.  Oakland Raiders draft Clemson WR Sammy Watkins.

10. New York Giants  Texas A&M WR Mike Evans. Somebody has to catch the ball on that team. 

11.  St Louis Rams take  U Buffalo LB Khalil Mack.  

12.  Baltimore Ravens take Michigan T Taylor Lewan to block for Joe Flacco.  

13  Buffalo Bills select Alabama LB C J Mosely to anchor their defense.

14.  Pittsburgh Steelers select Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio

15. Atlanta, using Cleveland's pick, takes Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro to replace Tony Gonzalez.

16.  New York Jets go for Notre Dame NT Louis Nix.  Do they need a NT?  Not really but they love to draft linemen.  

17.  San Diego Chargers draft Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.  They need help on defense.

18.  Green Bay Packers take Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio to protect Aaron Rodgers.

19. Chicago Bears draft Alabama S Haha Clinton-Dix S.  Haha will stop opponents from laughing at their secondary.

20.  Arizona Cardinals select Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard.

21.  Philadelphia Eagles go for Notre Dame DE  Stephon Tuitt

22.  Detroit Lions take Ohio State CB Bradley Roby.

23. Miami Dolphins: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson who is probably better than Johnny Football anyway.  

24. Dallas Cowboys:  Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

25. Cincinnati Bengals: Clemson DE Vic Beasley.

26. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

28. New England Patriots: Cameron Erving  FSU OT 

29. Carolina Panthers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt, a target for Cam Newton.

30. New Orleans Saints:  Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota, another pass rusher for Rob Ryan's defense. 

31. Denver Broncos:  Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

32. Seattle Seahawks:  Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee