Sunday, January 29, 2017

Browns 2017 Off-Season. Conditioning

     Off-seaon conditioning is usually overlooked in the media. But it is a huge factor for success in the NFL though perhaps not as interesting as free agents and drafting. 
      If you listen to guys like Coach Earnest Byner, Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Tom Brady, Mark Schlerreth, Emmitt Smith and guys like that,  they all stress the importance of conditioning specifically for the NFL.   They all say there is a big difference from being able to run sprints and exercise versus being in shape for the NFL. Otherwise, you may be able to run 4.4 and have a great bench press, but you can still pull muscles and be susceptible to injuries and shorten your career.  For what it's worth, Brady is fond of saying that the Super Bowl is won in the off-season.  Maybe he knows what he is talking about.  
    I'm just a fan, not a player or expert by any means, but you can see any number of NFL workout regimes on Youtube and other places.  Most of them are rather watered down because the average person can't do it.  If it lasts less than four hours, it's not a real NFL workout regimen.  I did like a document posted on the web by the Houston Texans that carries the basics:
Texans Training

    The Browns have a staff of about seven, with one vacancy after the departure of Joe Kim, a martial arts coach who worked primarily with the Defensive Line.  The Browns have had the same Director since 2015 in Adam Beard.  
     There have been some issues relating to conditioning for several years.  in 2016, first round pick Corey Coleman was not in shape, according to Coach Hue Jackson.  And after watching Browns linemen on both sides fo the ball be physically bullied, I think there is a question as to whether our team's conditioning is where it needs to be.  
    An exception was Danny Shelton who showed up lighter and stronger than his rookie year in 2015.  But at that time we learned that Shelton was way overweight in 2015, weighing at least 355 pounds.  My question is, how was he even allowed to compete being that far out of spec?   

    That same year Coach Wilbert Montgomery blasted his running backs for showing up to camp out of shape. That year the Browns had an incredible number of hamstring pulls in training camp. Then of course there is Johnny Manziel, who never seemed to have time to train. 
      2016 was not a watershed year in the development of the young Browns team, but from a conditioning standpoint there was some evidence of improvement.  
      In 2017, hopefully the Browns will continue to improve. Hopefully they will start to push the other teams around at the line of scrimmage. In particular I'm hoping to see guys like Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah hold their ground on the DL.  Cam Erving improved significantly over the year, but still wasn't good enough to start in the NFL.  Maybe racking up some more weight and reps in the weight room might help him.  I'm hoping to see Danny Shelton continue to improve, and hopefully Corey Coleman will do what he needs to do to improve on an underperforming rookie season.  
 Maybe he set the standard.  
     To be clear, the Village Elliot is not an athlete and is not speaking from personal experience on conditioning in the NFL.  I just go jogging and lift in the YMCA and that' about it.        But just going but what I see from a fan's perspective, the Browns Strength and Conditioning staff seem to have improved since 2015, but there is a lot of room for improvement also.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Village Elliot's 2017 NFL Mock Draft

I have Mike Williams as a Top 10 Pick, ahead of his QB, Deshaun Watson. 

    I'm not sure why we make mock drafts, but since many of my friends make them, here's mine to poke fun at too.   This is my guess at the order that the players get picked (not my list of the 32 best players).  I have the Browns taking Myles Garrett.  To be honest, my untrained eyes do not see the same things that the experts see, but almost all of the best experts say Garrett is the top guy in the draft.  I originally had Mitch Trubisky going first overall to the Browns, but after a so-so Sun Bowl performance, I decided he might not be a Hall of Famer after all, and downgraded him to second overall.  Besides the Browns do not really need a quarterback as much as they need to help an underperforming defense and terrible offensive line.  
    But everyone likes to pay special attention to quarterbacks, so here's my reasoning on them.  I like Trubisky because of his accuracy and low INT rate.  I also think his wide receivers were average or below, which is why his stats are not as good as, say, a Big 12 quarterback.     
   I placed Deshaun Watson after Mike Williams of Clemson, who I think is the best NFL prospect on that team.  I figured New Orleans might like him as a Quarterback of the Future, and Sean Payton could cure his interception problems while he learnes under future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.  
     I was thinking of bumping Deshone Kizer all the way to the second round, but I figure his talent level is so high that someone will take a chance on him late in the first round, despite underperforming at Notre Dame. Houston would be a good fit, since that team loves to gobble up quarterbacks almost as much as the Browns.  My take is that in 2016 his receiving talent was not nearly as good as 2015, when the team sent three wideouts to the NFL.    So maybe we can foregive his relatively ordinary stats and focus on his exceptional throwing ability.  

      Conversely I've published that I like Brad Kaaya a lot, but I decided to ding him for being not quite as athletic as his competition.  Like Kizer and Trubisky, his stats are not quite as good as  you would really like to see,  and I think he may not be taken until the second round.  It really looks like a deep draft for quarterbacks, with a lot of raw but under-developed talent in the late rounds.  
    In this year's draft I really like the first half of the first round, and I think there will a drop off after that.  So, when it's the Browns' turn again at number 12,  it would take a pretty good deal to convince me to drop  more than a few places.  For example, I was crazy about Jabrill Peppers until the OSU game, at which time I started questioning whether his true speed is as good as Michigan says (4.3).   If he runs that at the combine, he might reclaim a spot in the Top 5.  I like Ryan Rmczyk of Wisconsin at 12.  The Browns do need a right tackle to stabilize that Offensive Line.   

1BrownsMyles Garrett TAMUDE
2SFMitch TrubiskyUNCQB
3ChiJonathan AllenAlabamaDE
4JacksonvilleTeez TaborFloridaCB 
5TitansMike WilliamsClemsonWR
6JetsLeonard FournetteLSURB
7ChargersJamal AdamsLSUS
8PanthersCam RobinsonAlabama
9BengalsDerek BarnettTennesseeDE
10BillsReuben FosterAlabamaLB
11SaintsDeshaun WatsonClemsonQB
12BrownsRyan RamczykWisconsin
13CardinalsMarshon LattimoreOSUCB
14EaglesJabrill PeppersMichiganS
15ColtsQuincy WilsonFloridaCB
16RavensMalik McDowellMich StDE
17WashingtonTim WilliamsAlabamaLB
18TitansCharles HarrisMissouriDE
19TampaJohn RossWashingtonWR 
20BroncosJarrad DavisFloridaLB
21LionsMarlon HumphreyAlabamaCB
22MiamiOJ HowardAlabamaTE
23GiantsDalvin CookFlorida StateRB  
24RaidersRaekwon McMillanOSULB
25TexansDeShone KizerNDQB
26GBTaco CharltonMichiganDE
27SeahawksCaleb BrantleyFloridaDT
28AtlantaTakkarist McKinleyUCLAOLB
29SteelersDawaune SmootIllinoisOLB
30KCDeMarcus WlakerFlorita StateDE
31CowboysCorey DavisW MichWR
32NEChristian McCaffreyStanfordRB


Saturday, January 21, 2017

What Can the Browns Actually Do in Free Agency 2017?

 Can the Browns sign All Pro Jamie Collins?

    What will the Browns actually do in Free Agency?  It's very funny, but just as I questioned whether the Browns could sign Jamie Collins two days ago, news reports say that the Browns are very close to signing him.  That is very good news for the Browns, and may signal to players and their agents that it is okay to sign with the Browns if Pro Bolwer Jamie Collins thinks its okay.  
    There are always ridiculous articles every year that the Browns have huge dollars in salary cap to be spend this year splurging on free gents.  But let's pump the brakes on that talk for a moment. 
    The actual numbers are that the annual cap is $168 Million for ALL teams, a healthy $13 million dollar increase from last year.   The Browns underspent last year and added to their "carryover" money, which you can think of as money that they would spend if they were going all out to win a Super Bowl this year.  But that is very unlikely to happen this year, so forget about spending $50 million in carryover, it's not going to happen.   So I think their target payroll this year will be about $165 million, and so they will spend about $57 million more than their current payroll.   I'm assuming they can sign both Jamie Collins and Terrelle Pryor for around $30 million. It might be higher if they agree to front-load the contract, which makes sense for a building team.  We may or may not re-sign guys like Stephen Paea (who was very good) and Austin Pasztor (who wasn't so good, but who could probably play guard next year).  They will also keep a stash to sign a few guys who are cut from other teams as salary cap casualties.    We will also sign some undrafted rookie free agents.   I think they will also clear additional room by cutting Josh McCown, Tramon Williams and several others from the bottom of the roster.  So here's how  it might break down, very roughly...

Current salaries:  $103 million
Dead money            $5 million (players no longer on the team).  
2017 draft               $10 million
Jamie Collins          $15 million
Terrelle Pryor          $15 million
Paea, Pasztor           $4 million
Waiver wire pickups $4 million  (vets cut at end of training camp)
Undrafted rookies     $2 million
Roster cuts             -$14 million
Free Agents            $21 million

The net net is that there is going to be about $21 million in 2017 salaries that can be spend on free agents.  That's enough to sign two or three new starters on the Offensive Line or the Defensive backfield.  Of course we will be better this year than last year.  Last year, our active payroll was only $103 million, and this year it is going to be about $60 million higher.  So we're going to have some better players, and moreover, the young kids are going to improve with a year's additional experience.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Can the Browns Sign Anyone?

I would never bet against Paul DePodesta and Sashi Brown in Fantasy Football.  I'm not sure they know as much about the real game.  

     The Browns have so much salary cap space, that they could help President Trump balance the national budget.   I'm not sure whether they can sign anyone in the upcoming Free Agency period, however.   I'm all about having Harvard geeks figure out the relative value of draft picks and that sort of things.  I'm an analytics guy myself, much better mathematician than athlete.  
      I'm sure these guys know better than anyone else when to drop back in the draft and when to trade up, and that sort of thing.  I'm less sure they know how to deal with people as human beings. 
     In particular, I think they may have done some serious damage by trading away talent, apparently in an effort to lose enough games to get great draft position and save money for the salary cap.  They deliberately reduced the talent level by not signing Mitchell Schwartz when they could have, and getting rid of guys like Karlos Dansby, Paul Kruger, Donte Whitner, Brian Hartline, Taylor Gabriel, Craig Robertson....guys who were good enough to contribute but maybe not great players.  They did clear a lot of salary cap room, that's for sure.  But I think players and agents are going to look at that and realize the Browns are not trying tow win every game they can.  Management would rather lose and get good draft position.  
     If you were an NFL Free Agent, would you sign with the Browns?   Of if you would sign with them, would you want more money than you would take from the Patriots or Cowboys?  
      I'll be surprised if they sign any major player to a multiyear contract.   They currently have two major players on the roster.  Terrelle Pryor has emerged as a genuine star player, while Jamie Collins is a former All Pro linebacker even though he didn't play well for the Browns last year.  If they can sign one player, they can Franchise Tag the other.   
      But can they?  If they can't sign either guy, that is the worst case scenario.  In that case, they can choose only one to Tag.  That one will probably be Pryor.  It will mean that the Browns can not attract anyone to willingly sign with them.  
      The Browns are going to have to realize that some player pools are more attractive than others.  Namely, drafted players play for less money than the veterans, and are probably more of a bargain.  Unsigned free agents are another pool that you can tap for a few good players per year.  But you can't spend your entire payroll on draft picks and bargain free agents.  You've got to also use money on veteran free agents, and that is going to be a problem for a team that thinks it is doing great by going 1-15.  
      I think a better strategy is to draft as many guys as you can, like the Browns did, and try to sign players who are under age 27.  But after you've done that and are still way underspent, I think that a smart team would sign some older players for one year deals or front-loaded deals like Andrew Hawkins got.  But what you don't do is sign older players to mulit-year deals with escalating salaries.  
     I hopeful that the Browns can sign Terrelle to a multiyear deal, and perhaps Jamie, but I'm not at all confident that this crew can do it.  I think they made some mistakes in their first year, and hopefully they will learn from it and slowly rebuild player and agent trust in the organization.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

How did the 2016 Browns Rookies Play?

2016 Browns Draftees Kessler, Shon Coleman, Nassib, Ogbah and Corey Coleman.  

  To make a long story short, the Class of 2016 was not very strong. Corey Coleman was the top pick and was unimpressive his first year.  He came into camp out of shape, had a couple good games but then got hurt and never made it all the way back.  Now in the off season he's been involved in an off the field incident in which someone got assaulted. Yeah, yeah, it's not his fault, blah, blah, blah.  Well, the Village Elliot is not impressed.   Mr. Coleman did not do nearly enough to earn a spot at the top of the depth chart, except that everyone else was worse.       
   Emmanual Ogbah was the second pick and was very good at rushing the passer, but not a factor for run defense.  At 269 pounds, he was simply not big enough to be a 3-4 lineman. Basically these days the 3-4 usually uses three guys over 300 plus pounds up front.  Asking Ogbah as a rookie to give up 40 pounds against his opponents was ridiculous.  A 4-3 defensive end is a better fit, or at least he's the right size.  
     Round 3 was the best one for the Browns.   Carl Nassib, was one of the better players, though like Ogbah his vital statistics fit a 4-3 and not a 3-4.   He looks like he could develop into a 4-3 defensive end on the left side.  
     The other Coleman, Shon was also taken in the third round and looked promising at right tackle.   At 6-foot-6 and weighs 313 pounds, he deserves a long look.   Finally the Browns got a good quarterback in Cody Kessler, also in Round 3.   He did very well in a few games when he wasn't injured. Remember what Hue said:   "I understand where everybody's coming from," Jackson said. "You gotta trust me on this one."   So maybe this is the guy who needs to be at top of the depth chart, if not a Pro Bowler. 
       In Round 4, Pick 99: Joe Schobert, OLB was not outstanding.  He was yet another guy that was undersized for an OLB, but he might be a fit for the Willie Linebacker, and probably a backup in 2017. 
          Also in Round 4, the Browns picked up a special teams ace in Ricardo Louis.  He is fast and athletic but he doesn't catch the ball consistently enough to be a starting wide receiver.  I think his real position should be defensive back to tell the truth, but he did make 18 catches for 205 yards, which is not bad for the Browns.   
     Derrick Kindred, S, showed signs of being a stud free safety last, but broke an ankle and wound up on IR.  I believe he will be the starter in 2017.  
       I was against taking Seth DeValve, a WR with the size of a tight end.  But the Browns used him as a pass catching tight end and he made a few sensational catches. You can call him a third WR or second TE or whatever, but I think he will get playing time in 2017.  
     Round 5 pick Jordan Payton is the guy who beat out Taylor Gabriel for the last receiver spot on the roster.  Gabriel has gone on to star for Atlanta, while Payton was suspended for drug use. Maybe there is a reason that he dropped to the fifth round.  I can't imagine he makes the team in 2017.  
     Spencer Drango was also taken in Round 5, and wound up filling in for Joel Bitonio at LG.  He will have to improve a lot to keep his spot on the roster, after being part of a record setting awful pass blocking line.  
          Also in Round 5 was Rashard Higgins, WR, who caught 6 balls for 77 yards.  That's not quite enough to justify a roster spot unless he improves a lot. 
      Trey Caldwell plays CB, which means if he had any ability at all he should have gotten playing time with the Browns. Since he didn't, he's probably a longshot for the 2017 roster.        In Round 7, the Browns picked up linebacker Scooby Wright III, but he was eventually plucked off the reserve team roster by Arizona.  
     To summarize:

      Zero stars, so far.
     Probable regulars:  Kessler, Ogbah, Nassib, Kindred, C. Coleman.
     Developing players:  Schobert, S Coleman, Devalve, Louis
       On the bubble:  Drango, Higgins, Caldwell, Payton

Sunday, January 8, 2017

How Do the Browns Stack Up in a 4-3 versus 3-4

Jamie Meder and Danny Shelton assess the potential of a 4-3 defense for the Browns.

Size isn't everything, and numbers don't always tell the whole story, but the numbers say that the Browns were underweight in their front seven, and actually match up better as a 4-3 defense.  

I took the trouble to obtain NFL average weights for 3-4 defenses from, and the  4-3 from and some additional information from David Sheldon of   The 4-3 linebacker weights were not broken down in sufficient detail, so I used my own estimates of 235 pounds for a outside linebackers and 250 lb for middle linebackers.   

I can't 

4-3 defensive lines weight

3-4 avg NFL weight

 NFL avg weights by position group

Comparing this the the 2016 Cleveland Browns, it is obvious that there is a major misfit on the outside.  Our defensive ends are giving away 31 pounds each.  That's like sending a middleweight to fight a heavyweight.  The outside linebackers are a little better, but still undersized by an average of 15 pounds.   Maybe that has something to do with our poor performance against the run last year.  I believe bad teams, and especially our dear Cleveland Browns, are always looking for sacks, and neglect other functions on defense. Hence we wind up with lighter players who are best at rushing the passer, but perhaps can't play the run or defend against passes. Ogbah and Nassib are too light to play DE in the 3-4, but you are not going to move them to right outside linebacker with All Pro Jamie Collins in that spot. 

3-4 Defense
Position Avg wt Player wt Difference
DE 306 Ogbah 275 -31
NT 323 Shelton 335 12
DE 306 Nassib 275 -31
OLB 263 Collins 250 -13
ILB 241 Kirksey 235 -6
ILB 241 Davis 248 7
OLB 263 Schobert 245 -18

The 4-3 defense removes a linebacker and adds a defensive tackle, so overall there is less of a requirement for big guys at each of the front seven position.  In the case of teh Browns, I decide to send Meder in for Schobert, which adds 63 pounds to the front seven.  But some of the guys who were on the small side in the 3-4 match up much better in the 4-3.   

4-3 Defense
PositionAvg wtPlayerwtDifference

What's not shown here is speed.  We can be sure that former All-Pro Jamie Collins has sufficient speed for the position, and I feel positively about Christian Kirksey as well.   Maybe the biggest question is whether Danny Shelton fits the 4-3. He was the perfect nose tackle in a 3-4.  Here again, though, it doesn't bother me one bit to play a guy who is a run stopper at his position.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Browns O-Line is Worse than I Thought

  I wrote about the Browns' Offensive Line a few weeks ago, and basically I took the stance that we needed to tweak things rather than overhaul them.  
   But things have changed.  First I have just realized that John Greco may not be back in 2017 at all.  It's been reported that he may need Lisfranc surgery, which would be a major setback. It's the same injury that Joel Bitonio had.  The good news is that there is a good prognosis for full recovery, the bad news is that it usually takes a full year to recover from, meaning that there is a good chance we won't see John this year.   At age 31, he can still come back, but as Paul Brown used to say, "football is a young man's game."  Ok, so we have no right guard and need to come up with someone. 
     The next problem is that the coaching staff seems to believe that Cam Erving is never going to improve enough to play center at the NFL level.   Hence they tried him at right tackle,  another sore spot for the Browns, and basically admitted that the center experiment is not going to work out.   Erving looked almost like an NFL lineman at times versus the Steelers, but also had a major breakdown in the third quarter as he was overwhelmed by the Steelers lineman as well as linebacker Bud Dupree who blew past Erving to force a strip sack. 
    I don't think the Coaching Staff can trust Cameron with either the Center or Right Tackle positions.  I think he should be made into a backup guard and sent to the weight room to try to rebuild his career. 
    The Browns gave up 66 sacks in 2016, 17 more than the next highest team.  They were incredibly bad.  In fact they were worse than the 1999 expansion team that gave up 60 sacks. 
    So what have we got?  Joe Thomas and a healthy Bitonio are solid on the left side.  Austin Reiter had a good game at center before getting hurt. Let's say he is at least a viable backup, along with Erving at right guard.  We did not have any NFL players at the other three positions.  I believe Austin Pasztor might be all right at guard, but not at right tackle where he played in 2006, and anyway he is a free agent now.    Spencer Drango, Jonathan Cooper and Alvin Bailey were usually overwhelmed at guard.   Shon Coleman had some good blocks versus the Steelers, but you have to wonder why the Coaching Staff didn't play him earlier.  
     Hence I think the only guys that are really established starters are Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio, and even Joel is not a lock to come back from foot surgery. Hence the Browns are going to have to sign some people during free agency, and try to add some talent via the draft also.  We need to look for a Center, Right Guard, Right Tackle and a guy who we can trust to back up both Tackle positions.   Erving might be given another year to develop, but patience is wearing thin for him.  Austin Reiter was a good backup center, though perhaps Anthony Fabiano might be a competitor after having a start against Pittsburgh, though he managed to hike the ball over RG3's head, which cost the Browns dearly.   I'd like to see some more of Shon Coleman, although as I mentioned already, I have trouble imagining he is very good if he couldn't get playing time on this squad. 
     I realize that Sashi Brown wants to only sign young players but we could a few veteran one-year wonders to stabilize the line, especially to fill out the bench bunch. 

The Fat Kids have killed the team all year long.

     I've been complaining about the Browns' Offensive Line all year long, as they've been trying to kill all of our quarterbacks.   To recapitulate, Cody Kessler has been knocked out of games twice, Josh McCown missed time with a broken collarbone, Robert Griffin III had a broken bone in his shoulder, and Charley Whitehurst was released with an injury settlement.  In addition the Browns lead the NFL in sacks allowed and hits allowed on the quarterback. It's one of the most disgraceful performances in NFL history, frankly.  

Many analysts believe the Browns need to nuke the line, blow it up and start over.  But I don't think so.  Next year, we hope for a healthy Joel Bitonio, John Greco, and Austin Reiter.  Joel is an up and coming star and threat to make the Pro Bowl, Greco has been a reliable and underrated guard, and Austin Reiter outplayed Cameron Erving however briefly before going on IR with a knee injury.  

No doubt the guys we are playing now are terrible.  But almost all linemen will improve greatly between Year 1 and Year 2.  I don't know whether late round draft picks like Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango will be good, but I do know that they will be better than in 2016.  It's just a fact that most rookies need time to understand the intricacies of their position, and they are still getting stronger at age 21 or 22. No way are they at their peak.  

In that regard, Cameron Erving has been terrible.  But to my eye, he's been getting better.  Not good, but better.   And if you look at his history, he switched from defense to offense only in his sophomore year, and then played one year at tackle and switched to center.  He had very little experience and then messed up by insisting he could play all five positions.   Let's be clear.  I don't blame a 22 year old kid for thinking he could do it.  I do blame the Browns coaching staff for not giving him one position to learn.   I want to see how he does in 2017 before going ape.  As other options, we still have John Greco and Austin Reiter.  

I don't think that Austin Pasztor is the stud road grader that we need at Right Tackle. He's a free agent this year for 2017, along with former first round pick Jonathan Cooper.    I would definitely seek a new starter, either via Free Agency or in the draft.   But I might be receptive to bring Pasztor back if he's willing to sign for a modest contract.  I think he played well at guard as a substitute starter in 2015.  I think Pasztor could be moved to right guard to compete with Greco for a job. We'll find out about Cooper too in the remaining games of 2016.  

Some people talk about moving Joe Thomas but that is crazy talk.  Leave the Hall of Famer alone.  He ain't broke, so please don't fix him.  

So, I think we are okay at  four spots with Thomas, Bitonio, Erving and Greco.  Backups are  Reiter, Spencer Drango, Shon Coleman and depending on free agency, Jonathan Cooper and Pasztor. We still badly need a legit right tackle, and probably a developmental guy who can be a backup tackle.  I think you can count on the guys on the  bench being better (not good, but better) than 2016.  

Shon Coleman has had a chance to start, but will have to improve to be first string next year.