Red Right 88

Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Liverpool solves one problem, but have they created another?

italy world cupExciting (and mildly surprising) news out of Anfield today as Liverpool has reportedly completed a £16 million transfer of talented (but controversial) striker Mario Balotelli.

The 24-year-old Balotelli will join the club from AC Milan and, if everything goes according to plan, could be on the bench for Monday’s showdown with Manchester City – the team that beat Liverpool for the Premier League title last season and Balotelli’s former club.

Despite saying just a few weeks ago that he had no interest in the Italian international, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has obviously decided that Balotelli’s ability to find the back of the net – 34 goals in 50 games at AC Milan – is just what the club needs to fill in the gap on offense left by Luis Suárez.

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From the editor’s notebook …

hoyer starting quarterbackCleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine made if official earlier today, naming Brian Hoyer as the team’s starting quarterback.

The decision ends what we can only hope was not an ill-fated quarterback competition between Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel. Now Hoyer can work exclusively to get not only himself but the offense ready for the season-opener on Sept. 7 against Pittsburgh.

“(Brian) was the clear leader from the beginning,” Pettine said in announcing the decision. “We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.”

Pettine probably made the right call (we’re pretty sure he did, but we won’t know until the season starts). Even though it is only a few games, Hoyer has more experience running an NFL offense than Manziel. Hopefully having him play most of Saturday’s preseason friendly against St. Louis, combined with giving him all the first-team reps in practice from here on out, will help him shake off the rust from not having played since injuring his knee last October.

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Browns once again find themselves in a QB quandry

browns redskins manzielIt is only preseason. It is only preseason. It is only preseason.

We have to keep reminding ourselves of that after watching the Cleveland Browns on Monday night against Washington.

The running game didn’t look all that bad, as Ben Tate and Terrance West combined to average 4.5 yards per carry, which compared to last season’s baggy pants farce is Pro Bowl-caliber work.

The defense had three interceptions and was active all over the field – at least when the officials weren’t throwing a flag. (The Browns were penalized 10 times).

Other than that, nothing much went right, especially with quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.

And that, Browns fans, leaves the team with a major problem on its hands.

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Liverpool ready to kick off Premier League title chase

European Football - UEFA Champions League - Semi-Final 2nd Leg MD12 - Liverpool FC v Chelsea FCThree months after seeing their title chase slip away, Liverpool return to action on Sunday against Southampton for the start of the 2014-15 Premier League season.

While a new season always brings fresh hope for the 20 clubs in England’s top flight, Liverpool has legitimate reasons to believe the upcoming season will be a good one after finishing in second place last year, just two points off the pace of Manchester City.

As Liverpool kicks-off the nine-month marathon that is the Premier League season, let’s do a quick Thumbs up/Thumbs down about the club.

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From the editor’s notebook …

jordan cameron contractWith the majority of the focus on the quarterback position during training camp, it is easy to forget that there are other stories and issues that the Cleveland Browns are working their way through.

One of those is a potential contract extension for fourth-year tight end Jordan Cameron, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Cameron had a breakout year last season, catching 80 passes and seven touchdowns, after totaling just 26 receptions and a lone touchdown in his first two seasons with the team.

With the availability of wide receiver Josh Gordon – the team’s top offensive threat – still in doubt for the season, Cameron should become the focus of the passing game and based on his production from last season should be in line for a big year. While he would most likely not command a contract in the neighborhood of what Jimmy Graham received from New Orleans (four years with $20 million in guaranteed money), if Cameron can up his stats from last year, his price tag would go up as compared to what it is now. So it makes sense for the Browns to start talking extension now.

Or does it?

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5 observations on Browns preseason friendly vs. Detroit

browns preseason detroitThe Cleveland Browns returned to game action Saturday night against Detroit, dropping the opening game of the exhibition season by a score of 13-12.

And while it was only a preseason friendly, it was nice to see the orange helmets in action against another team.

Here are five quick observations from the game:

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How did that happen?

tribe playoff raceIt has been an interesting summer so far, with plenty of attention on the World Cup; the return of LeBron James to Cleveland, and the possibility of a deal for Kevin Love; and all things Johnny Manziel as the Cleveland Browns work their way through training camp.

The Cleveland Indians have pretty much just been an afterthought, sitting on the periphery of Cleveland’s collective sporting conscience with a .500 record.

But take a closer look at the standings in the American League and, heading into Tuesday night’s game against Cincinnati, we realized that the Tribe is just 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.

Wait … what?

We’re not sure how they are doing it, but manager Terry Francona once again has the Tribe in the race for a playoff appearance.

In light of this surprising development, it seems like a good time for a quick Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down on the Tribe so far.

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Nothing to see here … or is there?

manziel first team repsCleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine sure knows how to start off a week of practice.

On Monday, rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel took over the first-team offense for the first time in training camp and the nation was all abuzz.

Pettine stressed after practice that this was all part of the master plan and that Brian Hoyer will still be the starting quarterback when the Browns face Detroit on Saturday in the team’s first preseason friendly … unless he’s not.

“I would still say that’s true (that Hoyer will be the starter on Saturday), but I can’t say it’s 100 percent at this point,” Pettine said in published reports. “But I would still say there’s a more than reasonable chance he’ll be the starter against Detroit. That had been the plan. I just want to confirm with (the offensive coaching staff) and see where they are with it.

“I don’t think we’ll (have Manziel with the starters) for the entire week. We’ll meet at some point midweek to discuss how we want to handle the reps in the Detroit game.”

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From the editor’s notebook …

kyrie reacts to injuryWhen we heard the news that Indiana’s Paul George had suffered a major leg injury during Friday’s scrimmage with USA Basketball it reinforced our belief of club over country.

We understand that injuries can happen at any time (see Winslow, Kellen) and that this is the first  major injury suffered by an NBA player since they started playing on the national team in 1992, but we’ve never been worked up if a Cleveland player is passed over for an All-Star game or for an international competition. It certainly is a nice honor for a player, but from a fan perspective we never saw the value in it.

Why do we need to see Kyrie Irving (who has enough trouble staying on the court as it is) or LeBron James spend the off-season putting extra miles on their bodies? Or watch Joe Thomas or Alex Mack at the Pro Bowl, just waiting for someone to accidentally roll up their leg and blow out a knee? How did playing in the World Baseball Classic work out for Vinnie Pestano?

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5 Questions in 5 Days: Hoyer vs. Manziel – Part 2

browns training hoyer manziel 5Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel?

The answer to which of the two will be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns is one that head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan simply have to get right if they are to be part of the regime that finally turns this franchise around.

Manziel is one of the most-dynamic college players we’ve seen in a long time. We watched his games last fall at Texas A&M and were consistently entertained. But at the same time we couldn’t help but worry that we wouldn’t be able to take watching him play 16 times a year for the Browns.

That all changed in May when the Browns selected Manziel in the first round of the NFL Draft. Now he’s part of Cleveland – for better or worse.

If Manziel can translate his college game to the NFL level he has the talent, competitiveness and presence to lead this team from the NFL wilderness back to a level we haven’t seen since the late 1980s.

The decision facing Pettine and Shanahan is not a question of if Manziel will be the starting quarterback, but a question of when. If this was Minnesota the answer would be a simple one. With a roster that includes Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel at quarterback, there is little reason for the Vikings to not turn the team over to rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Which brings us to Brian Hoyer.

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