Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Monday, May 2, 2016

My Thoughts On The Browns' 2016 NFL Draft? Receive Freely, And Frequently

Yes, I am still nursing a small grudge about the Browns bypassing quality Ohio State Buckeyes in the most recent NFL Draft...again.  But overall, I am pleased with the Browns' 2016 NFL Draft results.

Are there players I would have chosen instead, if I was the person in charge?  Sure.  I am quite confident I can find other Browns fans who would have a similar mindset.

Am I happy with the direction taken by the new management regime?  Very much so.

Was I surprised that Cody Kessler was the quarterback picked by the Browns, especially when most draft analysts had pegged Kessler as a 3rd day pick (4th-7th round)?  Certainly.  But I do like this quote from new Browns head coach Hue Jackson ~ "I understand where everybody's coming from, you've got to trust me on this one..." 

When I think about the quarterbacks Coach Jackson has coached in his past, and I think about the dreadful quarterbacks who have paraded through Berea since the Browns returned in 1999...just let me say that I am going to give Coach Jackson the benefit of the doubt.  Hey, it's not as though the Browns just mortgaged their future on Kessler, as Los Angeles did with Jared Goff and Philadelphia did with Carson Wentz.

How do I believe the quarterback spot will shake out?  At first, I believed Josh McCown would be traded during the weekend of the draft, but it makes no sense to trade McCown at this point of the year.  What if someone gets hurt for another team during the preseason?  What if RGIII gets hurt?  At least hold onto McCown through the preseason.  I am guessing the final quarterback depth chart will be RGIII as the starter, Kessler as the backup, and former quarterback-turned wide receiver Terrelle Pryor will be the emergency quarterback, allowing the Browns to save a roster spot for wide receiver...provided Pryor develops into a better wide receiver than he showed in 2015.


Other observations - any time an organization selects four wide receivers in the draft does not just speak volumes about what the front office and coaching staff think about the veteran depth chart, it blasts the stereo so loud that the neighbors are going to be calling the police.  With Corey Coleman and Ricardo Louis, the Browns added two speedy wide receivers to stretch the field; with Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins, the Browns added two quality possession receivers, something the franchise has lacked since Joe Jurevicius' career with Cleveland ended after the 2008 season.


While Scooby Wright seems to be the early choice for a Browns fan favorite of the 2016 NFL Draft, I am going to be rooting for Penn State DE Carl Nassib.  Maybe I am mistaken, but Nassib strikes me as the type of player who has a tremendous hunger and passion for the game.


The sleeper?  None bigger than 4th round pick Seth DeValve from Princeton, the highest draft choice in his illustrious school's football history.  DeValve is a WR who is being converted to TE, to give the offense the type of athletic tight end that Coach Jackson is used to highlighting within his offense.


Do I believe the Browns will become a miracle turnaround team in 2016?  Not at all.  The schedule is brutal, the quarterback spot will be a question mark, based on RGIII's injury history, and the team is going to be decidedly young.

Do I believe the 2016 NFL Draft by the Browns is a step in the right direction, to turning this team around?  Emphatically yes.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Any 2015 Buckeyes Going To Be 2016 Browns?

Growing up in the Cleveland area, I have memories of the Cleveland Browns that are quite vivid. I will passionately argue that The Fumble hurt far more than The Drive. I remember being so disgusted when the Browns traded Chip Banks and drafted Mike Junkin. And I proudly wear and own a Brian Sipe jersey, having been in the stands for Sipe’s last game as a Brown versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1983, before Sipe jumped to the USFL.

The heartaches and frustrations of the Cleveland Browns fanbase are too many to write; it is painful enough that I remember them. One of the most puzzling decisions the Browns have made since their NFL return in 1999 has been to continually ignore and neglect selecting players from Ohio State.

Yes, I know that the Browns have former Buckeyes Brian Hartline and Terrelle Pryor on the roster. Former Buckeye Simon Fraser played for the Browns as an undrafted free agent from 2005-2007. And I also remember that the Browns drafted former Buckeyes Darnell Sanders in 2002 and Brian Robiskie in 2009. But that’s it – 2 players on the current roster, with a grand total of 5 Buckeyes from 1999 through 2015.

Compare and contrast that with the Pittsburgh Steelers. From 2001, when the Steelers selected Rodney Bailey in the sixth round, the Steelers have picked a total of 8 Buckeyes. The most recent selection was in the 2015 NFL Draft, when Pittsburgh picked Doran Grant in the 4th round. Mike Adams, Doran Grant, Cameron Heyward, and Ryan Shazier are all on the Steelers roster – considering Grant grew up in Akron, and the Browns have a need at cornerback, wouldn’t it be nice to see Grant playing for Cleveland instead of Pittsburgh?

Back to my point. With so many talented Buckeyes in the 2016 NFL Draft, could the Browns wise up and improve their roster with some Buckeyes?

I will quickly add that I do not believe all of the Buckeyes would make sense for the Browns. For example, while Joey Bosa should be a tremendous pro, the Browns are running a 3-4 defense, which would transition Bosa from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. I am not sure if that would be in Bosa’s best interests as a pro.

Could Vonn Bell be in the Browns’ draft plans?




Wouldn’t it be nice if the Browns selected Michael Thomas in the second round? How about Nick Vannett in the third round? On day 3 of the draft, picking Jalin Marshall late in the sixth or seventh round? Chase Farris? Tyvis Powell?

Hue Jackson is the latest Cleveland Browns head coach to try and turn around this once proud franchise. A good place to start is to add players from about two and half hours south on I-71.

Friday, April 22, 2016

2016 Ohio State Spring Football Conclusions

“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth…” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
For the past couple months, beginning in February, every Friday at 8am EST has begun with this quote on this site. I have written about what I perceived concerns about various position groups, and it culminated in a glorious 2016 Ohio State Spring Game on April 16th in Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer must be pleased with one crucial area as it relates to spring football – the Buckeyes left the spring game with no injuries that could impact the 2016 season. Fifth-year senior running back Bri’onte Dunn did not play in the spring game with a sprained ankle, but will be back in the mix for the starting running back spot for fall camp.
Showing my age, I can vividly recall Ohio State spring game performances that were tremendous, yet did not translate into fall game production. It is important to keep things in proper perspective. With those caveats in mind, below are three distinct impressions that were made upon me as I sat in D Deck of Ohio Stadium…
1. The 2016 Ohio State Defensive Line Will Rotate Frequently ~ Yes, Ohio State was playing as many offensive and defensive linemen as possible in the spring game. It was challenging for either the Gray’s or Scarlet’s offensive lines to protect Joe Burrow or Stephen Collier whenever either was playing quarterback. With all of that on the table, the defensive linemen who have been waiting in the wings used the spring game as an opportunity to show what they could do if given the opportunity. For example, I don’t want to call him a sleeper, but Jashon Cornell, a moved defensive end to defensive tackle, seemed to emerge during the spring game.
On a somber note, Donovan Munger’s Ohio State career has come to an end, due to health concerns. Best of luck to Munger in all of his future endeavors, and many thanks for all of his contributions to Ohio State football…
For the first time since Coach Meyer came to Columbus in 2012, Ohio State has so many defensive linemen that will allow Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson to continually refresh players who will be able to harass the opposition’s quarterback. Think about this – Nick Bosa is not yet on campus, and Coach Meyer has stated Bosa will play in 2016.
2. Do Not Sweat J.T. Barrett’s 2016 Spring Game Performance ~ J.T. Barrett had an uneven day during the spring game, but there were several extenuating circumstances that impacted his performance. First of all, Barrett wore a black jersey that did not allow him to scramble or face contact. As stated up above, the offensive line was more of a ragtag collection, with projected starters Pat Elflein and Billy Price being withheld from competition. And projected starters Noah Brown and Corey Smith did not play this spring as both are still recuperating from their respective 2015 injuries.
Did Barrett make some throws in the 2016 spring game that were puzzling? Absolutely. Do I believe Barrett would have made those same throws in actual game competition? Absolutely not. Look at Barrett’s spring game as someone who was dealt some specific restrictions, and was testing the boundaries of what was possible, with a mandate to avoid injury at all costs. Look for Barrett to come out impressively against BGSU on September 3rd looking more like his typical self.
3. The 2016 Team Will Continue To Improve Every Week ~ It bears repeating, but with so many young players, the competition for playing time will be fierce and continuous all year long. Will inexperience sometimes be frustrating, especially in the secondary? Without question. The game at Oklahoma in week three will be must-watch TV for not just Ohio State and Oklahoma fans, but the nation –
Don’t take my word for it; go back and listen to the podcast link that included Clair Crawford. Read my man Tony Gerdeman’s thoughts on Ohio State following the spring game. Remember that I wrote this in April – this is going to be a team that will be feared by the end of the 2016 season.

Friday, April 15, 2016

2016 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: Youth Will Be Served, Early And Often – Safety Preview

“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth…” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
 
Ohio State began spring football practice on March 8th. Heading into the 2016 college football season, Ohio State will have 44 players on its roster designated as either a redshirt freshman (21 of the 25 players signed in February 2015), or a true freshman. For a roster that can have only 85 scholarship players, Ohio State will have around 52% of its roster with no playing time experience. As former Ohio State Head Coach John Cooper used to say, “If a dog is going to bite you, it will bite you as a pup.”.

For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 16th, 2016. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

1st – Safety

Players Lost – Tyvis Powell, Vonn Bell. Both players had eligibility remaining, and both decided to forego a final year as Buckeyes to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. Say what you want about either player, but Powell and Bell were steady veteran players at the last line of defense.

Returning Players/Incoming Players – Malik Hooker (Redshirt Sophomore), Damon Webb (Junior), Erick Smith (Junior), Cam Burrows (Redshirt Junior), Eric Glover-Williams (Sophomore).

A few things to keep in mind as it relates to this position group…

· Damon Webb has been moved to safety this spring, after primarily playing as the nickel cornerback. This may be a move to get the talented Webb on the field by new secondary coach Greg Schiano.

· Webb’s move may also be a concession to the fact that both Erick Smith and Cam Burrows, both with playing experience, are still recovering from injuries that derailed their respective 2015 seasons.

· The same could be said for Eric Glover-Williams, who has seen time at safety this spring. Glover-Williams is listed at 5’9″, 175 lbs., which may be better suited for cornerback.

· If there is anyone who seems to be a lock to start at safety in 2016, it is redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker. Hooker has never started, but played more and more in spot duty in 2015.

· Reinforcements are on the way, but will not arrive until the summer. Players such as Jahsen Wint, Rodjay Burns, and Jordan Fuller may all get long looks at safety during fall camp. The point I am making is all of these players are true freshmen, and untested on the college level.

These questions, among others, have been on my mind, as Ohio State concludes spring practice with the Ohio State Spring Game on April 16th. Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer hopes to have at least 100,000 fans in Ohio Stadium. Let’s not disappoint him, Buckeye fans.


Friday, April 8, 2016

2016 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: Youth Will Be Served, Early And Often – OL Preview

“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth…” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
 
Ohio State began spring football practice on March 8th. Heading into the 2016 college football season, Ohio State will have 44 players on its roster designated as either a redshirt freshman (21 of the 25 players signed in February 2015), or a true freshman. For a roster that can have only 85 scholarship players, Ohio State will have around 52% of its roster with no playing time experience. As former Ohio State Head Coach John Cooper used to say, “If a dog is going to bite you, it will bite you as a pup.”.

For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 16th, 2016. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

2nd – Offensive Line

Players Lost – Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren, Chase Farris. Boren was undersized for the offensive line, but as tough and tenacious as any offensive lineman Ohio State has ever seen. Decker was a three year starter at left tackle, and will be difficult to replace. Farris was a converted defensive lineman who played well at right offensive tackle in his last year of eligibility for the Buckeyes. Best of luck to all of these young men in their respective futures.

Returning Players/Incoming Players – Pat Elflein (Redshirt Senior), Billy Price (Redshirt Junior), Jamarco Jones (Junior), Isaiah Prince (Sophomore), Michael Jordan (Freshman), Branden Bowen (Redshirt Freshman), Matthew Burrell (Redshirt Freshman), Kevin Feder (Redshirt Freshman), Tyler Gerald (Freshman), Demetrius Knox (Redshirt Sophomore), Evan Lisle (Redshirt Junior), Grant Schmidt (Redshirt Freshman), Brady Taylor (Redshirt Sophomore), Kyle Trout (Redshirt Sophomore).

A few things to keep in mind as it relates to this position group…

· If Pat Elflein or Billy Price had entered the 2016 NFL Draft, this position group would rank as my number one concern heading into the 2016 season. 




Fortunately for Ohio State, Elflein is not only staying, but will move to center, allowing Ohio State to focus on the other three open spots that have emerged along the offensive line. Price has played predominantly left guard, but has experimented at the right guard spot this spring at times.




· Early enrollee Michael Jordan has emerged as a possibility at left guard. It is highly unusual for an offensive lineman to start as a freshman, but Jordan could win a spot. Jordan was running with the first team offense on April 2nd…




· On the flip side of Jordan’s development, what does that say about all of the returning offensive linemen? Are these players behind?




· Perhaps it is just me, but I was surprised that Jamarco Jones was listed at left tackle, and Isaiah Prince was at right tackle. I would have guessed it would have wound up the opposite. JUCO signee Malcolm Pridgeon arrives this summer, and could force his way into the lineup at one of the tackle positions.

· Something to keep in mind is that this spring is not only important due to the loss of three starters, but this is the first spring with new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Developing a sense of chemistry with the players is important for the coaching staff also.

These questions, among others, have been on my mind, as Ohio State resumed spring practice on March 22nd.

Ohio State Video

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