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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Browns vs. Steelers – Week 17

Sixteen weeks after the Cleveland Browns opened the 2011 NFL season on a warm, September afternoon, the season comes to a close on Sunday when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Opposition

Pittsburgh’s record: 11-4 (tied for first in the AFC North)
Offensive rank: 11th overall/9th passing/16th rushing
Defensive rank: 1st overall/1st passing/9th rushing
All-time record: Steelers lead, 63-56 (counting postseason). The Browns are 35-23 at home against the Steelers
Last meeting: Pittsburgh won, 14-3, in Week 14
The line: Browns (+7)

What to Watch For

With last week’s loss to the Ravens, the Browns earned their fourth consecutive 11 loss season. They are the only NFL team to pull off that dubious accomplishment.

So what better way to close out the season than to host a Pittsburgh team that is No. 1 in defense and playing for a No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the playoffs?

The fact that the Steelers have something to play for works in Cleveland’s favor, as the Browns still have an opportunity to maximize their draft position. And really, this time of year in Cleveland, what else is there to talk about?

While we will never root for the Browns to lose, a loss on Sunday will at least be more palatable knowing it will give the Browns the No. 4 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Plus, while a win on Sunday would be nice, there is always the fear that, by beating the Steelers, fans will lose sight of how much work still lies ahead for the team, much like what happened in 2009, when the Browns beat the Steelers late in the year in the most over-rated win in franchise history.

“I think you remember what happened most recently and I think anytime you can win your last game I think it makes you feel good as you move forward,” coach Pat Shurmur said in his Friday press conference. “Then regardless of what happens, there are ways that we have to improve so that’s not lost on me either. What’s at task now is playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and doing what we have to do to get a victory.”

Seneca Wallace will get the start again at quarterback, which, according to him, is all that matters. Apparently helping Colt McCoy learn the offense and, you know, making the team better isn’t a priority in Seneca’s world.

“That was Jake (Delhomme’s) deal,” Wallace told The Plain Dealer when asked if he mentored McCoy this season. “He did a lot of some stuff with him last year. But that’s not my thing. It’s just one thing I don’t do. I came in with the mind-set I wanted to compete, whatever case that was.”

Way to be a team player.

On the defensive side, it will be interesting to see how cornerbacks Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown match up with receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.

According to Pro Football Focus, Haden and Brown did not allow a single reception last week against Baltimore. Brown has had two solid games in a row since giving up four catches and a touchdown against the Steelers, and Haden has allowed just two catches for 18 yards in the past two games.

The Prediction

The Browns are just too limited on offense to put up much of a fight against a Pittsburgh team with something to play for.

We’ll take the Steelers minus the points.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 8-6-1.

(Photo courtesy of Cleveland.com)

Year in Review – Fourth Quarter

As we enter the last few days of 2011, it’s time to take a look at the past year in sports.

While it was another year without a title from any of Cleveland’s teams, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.

For the First Quarter, check here.

For the Second Quarter, check here.

For the Third Quarter, check here.

The Browns entered October at 2-1, but the wheels quickly fell off as the Orange and Brown looked like an expansion team in losing to Tennessee.

Things got worse the following week when word came out that Peyton Hillis’ agent advised Hillis to miss a game because of strep throat. Somehow a player missing a game because of injury/illness became a controversy, which in hindsight was a precursor to the hysteria surrounding Colt McCoy later in the season.

Coming out of the bye week the Browns got knocked around by the Raiders, squeaked out a win against the Seahawks and closed the month with a loss on the road to the 49ers.

Along the way the team lost linebacker Marcus Benard for the season to a motorcycle accident and the team continued looking for an answer to The Colt McCoy Question.

The month also had us questioning the level of competition the U.S. Men’s National Team faces.

In November, the Indians were movers on the first day of baseball’s off-season, declining the option on outfielder Grady Sizemore, picking up the option on pitcher Fausto Carmona and trading for starting pitcher Derek Lowe.

The Browns continued cutting away the dead wood left behind by “super coach” Eric Mangini, releasing wide receiver Brian Robiskie.

The fun continued on the field, as the Browns were rolled in Texas, lost on a blocked field goal – and poor snap by formerly reliable long snapper Ryan Pontbriand – against St. Louis, pulled out a win, thanks to a goal-line stand, against Jacksonville and lost on a late touchdown against the Bengals.

Fans struggled during the month to separate reality from perception and some even longed for a past that existed only in their imaginations.

December opened with the Browns losing at home to the Ravens.

Four days later it all hit the fan as the Browns lost to Pittsburgh on an NFL Network Thursday night game and Colt McCoy suffered a concussion at the hands of repeat offender James Harrison.

Harrison earned a much-deserved suspension, but thanks to a poor choice of words by Browns coach Pat Shurmur the local media, always desperate for a controversy surrounding the Browns, worked overtime to create one.

Team president Mike Holmgren tried to calm the waters, but we’re not sure everyone got the message.

The Browns took the Cardinals to overtime before falling in Week 15, and staged a rally that fell short in Baltimore in Week 16 to fall to 4-11 on the season.

Also during December, Clint Dempsey became the highest-scoring American in the Premier League.

The end of the month also saw us make our debut at The Cleveland Fan.

And that’s a wrap on the year in Cleveland sports. Thanks to everyone who read and commented during the year, if you like what you see be sure to come back and spread the word.

We’re looking forward to new opportunities in 2012 and, while we’re not sure what will happen in Cleveland sports, there is no doubt that it will be anything but boring.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year’s.

(Photo courtesy of Cleveland Browns.com)

Year in Review – Third Quarter

As we enter the last few days of 2011, it’s time to take a look at the past year in sports.

While it was another year without a title from any of Cleveland’s teams, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.

For the First Quarter, check here.

For the Second Quarter, check here.

July started on a high note for the Indians, as Austin Kearns’ three-run homer helped beat the Yankees on the Fourth of July. But injuries started to catch up with the team and a lack of offense dropped the team down the standings culminating in the inevitable – a no-hitter at the hands of Ervin Santana.

The front office shocked everyone though, trading for starting pitcher Ubaldo Jiminez at the end of the month. The Tribe gave up both Drew Pomeranz and Alex White – the top two pitching prospects in the organization – in the deal.

The NFL lockout ended in July, bringing the return of the Browns and the official start of the Pat Shurmur era as coach.

Just before the end of the month the U.S. Soccer team named Jürgen Klinsmann as head coach of the national team.

And we had an excellent time at Waiting for Next Year’s gathering at Canal Park.

In August, the Tribe made one last run at Detroit for the division lead as they took 2-of-3 from the Tigers. But a sweep at the hands of Detroit late in the month effectively ended the Tribe’s season.

After falling out of the pennant race, and needing something to draw fans to the games with the start of the NFL season on the horizon, the Indians brought Jim Thome home for a cameo.

Even though the Tribe faded in the second half of the season, it was fun while it lasted.

Browns camp opened with second-year defensive backs Joe Haden and T.J. Ward expressing their excitement for new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s 4-3 defense.

We were also left asking, not for the first time, what the Browns were doing at the wide receiver position.

This being the Browns they couldn’t get through training camp without losing a key player, as Eric Steinbach was lost for the year with a back injury.

And the release of the documentary Senna reminded us of the artistry of Formula One driver Aryton Senna.

September brought about the official end of the Indians season, but the team gave fans plenty to cheer about in 2011 and plenty to look forward to next year.

And the Browns were back for the 2011 NFL season with Colt McCoy in his first full season as starting quarterback.

Things got off to a rocky start in Week 1 as the Browns fell to the Bengals following a defensive breakdown. It was only one game but, this being Cleveland, plenty of fans were already on the ledge.

Week 2 saw the team give Pat Shurmur his first victory as an NFL head coach. It wasn’t surprising the team did well, as the game against the Colts was the last with a healthy Peyton Hillis for quite a while.

The Browns followed that win with a late victory over the Dolphins in Week 3 as the defense helped save the day.

General manager Tom Heckert also made the right decision to take it slow when it came to a contract extension with Hillis.

Coming Friday: Injuries help the Browns season take a turn for the worse, the team continues to prune the dead wood left from the Eric Mangini era, and Colt McCoy’s concussion turns into a manufactured controversy.

Year in Review – Second Quarter

As we enter the last few days of 2011, it’s time to take a look at the past year in sports.

While it was another year without a title from any of Cleveland’s teams, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.

For the First Quarter, check here.

April brought the first full month of Tribe baseball, and the Indians got the season off on a nice start, especially the starting pitching. The month included a 9-2 stretch where the starters threw 74 innings and gave up just 15 earned runs – a 1.82 ERA.

The month also meant the best day for Browns fans each year – the NFL Draft.

Browns fans know, based on his previous work, that the team is in good hands with general manager Tom Heckert and fans were rewarded when Heckert selected three starters in the first two rounds – Phil Taylor, along with Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little.

We tried to warn people that the Madden Curse is real, but no one listened and Peyton Hillis was voted to the game’s cover.

And when it comes to Cleveland teams, we realized it is always good to have options.

May saw the Indians continue on their hot streak and turn into the team that Cleveland needed. The Tribe was led by its starting pitching, a bullpen that didn’t get any respect and a never-say-die attitude from the offense.

Unfortunately, by the end of the month cracks had started to show that would plague the team for the rest of the year.

The Cavs hit the jackpot in the NBA Draft lottery, taking home the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the upcoming draft.

And Jim Tressel paid for his years of lies by “resigning” as football coach at Ohio State.

June saw the Kent State men’s golf team on the verge of its second-consecutive Top 20 finish on the season and the baseball team just miss out on the first visit to the Super Regionals in school history.

The month was not kind to the Indians, who fell out of first on June 14. Leading the downfall was the continued decline of starting pitcher Fausto Carmona.

The rebuilding continued for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA draft, as the Cavs found coach Byron Scott his point guard in Duke’s Kyrie Irving at No. 1 and selected Texas power forward Tristan Thompson.

At the end of the month, the Cavs finally decided they had seen enough of the enigma that is J.J. Hickson, trading the third-year forward/center to Sacramento for small forward Omri Casspi.

And the U.S. Men’s National Team made it to the final of the Gold Cup, only to lose to Mexico 4-2 – after holding a 2-0 lead.

Coming Wednesday: The Tribe makes a major move, the U.S. Men’s National Team starts the Jurgen Klinsman era and the Browns open the 2011 NFL season in less than stellar fashion.

(Photo by Getty Images)

At quarterback for the 2012 Browns …

With the season finale against Pittsburgh just days away, the Browns are moving closer to one of the most important decisions the franchise has faced since coming back in 1999:

What to do about the quarterback position?

Head over to The Cleveland Fan, where we will now be writing from time to time, for the rest of the story.

The Cleveland Fan was founded on February 1, 2006, by Rich Swerbinsky. Since then, it has grown into the most trafficked fan run Cleveland sports website in cyberspace, boasting a community of 50,000 monthly visitors strong (and growing) with over 2,000,000 page hits each month.

In bringing The Cleveland Fan to life, Rich’s mission statement was simple: Create an alternative to the traditional media sources and a place for Cleveland sports fans to congregate to read opinion on the teams we live and die for, and also a place for fans to have intelligent discussions about those teams.

We’re excited to work with them – even if they have a “no soccer” policy (we’ll work on that); head on over and check the site out.

Year in Review – First Quarter

As we enter the last few days of 2011, it’s time to take a look back at the past year in sports.

While it was another year without a title from any of Cleveland’s teams, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.

January started off with Browns team president Mike Holmgren telling “super coach” Eric Mangini that he and his 10-22 record (2-10 within the division) were no longer needed in Berea.

Thankfully, Holmgren fought off the urge to hire the over-rated Jon Gruden before finally selecting Rams’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur for the job, with the biggest selling point being that Shurmur, Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert are all on the same page when it comes to football philosophy.

One thing that concerned us at the time was Shurmur’s desire to be his own offensive coordinator, which may have hurt the team as it looked to fill out the coaching staff. But the team looks to have gotten it right with the hiring of Dick Jauron to run the 4-3 defense.

The month also found the Cavs deep into a slump that would eventually reach 26 games as the team went from Dec. 18 until Feb. 11 without a win.

February brought spring training and the hope that the Indians would go with a youth movement.

The Cavs pushed their losing streak to the historic brink before finally beating the Clippers in overtime.

Cavs general manager Chris Grant scored the biggest win of the season, trading Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and an unprotected lottery pick that turned out to be the No. 1 overall selection in the draft.

The team also helped its draft position when leading scorer Antawn Jamison was lost for the year with a finger injury. While we don’t like to see anyone get hurt, Jamison being out of the lineup helped the Cavs pile up the losses.

As the month moved on, we learned more about why the Browns parted with Mangini, first when they released several “Mangini guys” from an aging roster, and later when general manager Tom Heckert explained the team’s new direction.

Finally, March opened with the unraveling of the tapestry of lies that Jim Tressel wove at Ohio State. As the month continued, the spin coming out of Columbus was dizzying. Apparently they never taught anyone at OSU that a lie ain’t a side of the story, it’s just a lie.

Luckily we had the Kent State men’s basketball team, which showed everyone you can be successful the right way.

Sadly, the NCAA didn’t agree, as they gave Cinderella a shocker on Selection Sunday: of the 37 at-large bids for the NCAA basketball tournament, only seven went to teams not in major conferences, one fewer than the previous year. The mid-majors got their revenge, however, during the tournament’s opening weekend.

As the Cavs continued through the month and the losses continued to tally, we started to worry that the team had quit on coach Byron Scott. But the Wine & Gold closed out the month with a victory over the Miami Heat.

And even though they hadn’t played a game in almost two months, the Browns were still in the news.

First, the team resigned back-up quarterback Seneca Wallace as insurance for Colt McCoy, Mike Holmgren told fans to keep calm & carry on and we started thinking about every Browns fan’s favorite time of the year: the NFL Draft.

Coming Tuesday: The Indians find early success, the Browns continue rebuilding the foundation of an aging defense, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks for a Gold Cup and the Cavs grab a point guard.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Miscommunication, missteps & mistakes

The Cleveland Browns gave fans their annual lump of coal in losing to the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Eve.

The loss was the Browns 11th this year, giving the team four consecutive 11-loss seasons for the first time in franchise history. We’re sure their are fans who will blame the previous 11 loss seasons on current coach Pat Shurmur.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

For the third week in a row, the Browns were competitive against a better team but came up short. Unlike last week, when the Browns came from ahead to lose against Arizona, this week the Browns fell behind 20-0 before putting a scare into the first-place Ravens.

“We knew this would be quite a challenge for us,” quarterback Seneca Wallace said in published reports. “We’re playing the Ravens at home, and they’re playing for everything. I should have played better, and I should have made better decisions.”

Two plays stand out in particular, starting with one involving Wallace’s decision making.

The Browns lost a chance at the end of the first half to put some points on the board when Wallace, a nine-year veteran who fancies himself a starting quarterback, thought it was a good idea to run the ball from the five-yard line with the Browns holding no timeouts and just 11 seconds remaining in the half.

“I knew we had no timeouts left,” Wallace said of the run call. “It was very loud in that end. It was bad communication on my behalf. I heard Pat (Shurmur) yelling, ‘Clock, clock, clock,’ but I wasn’t sure everyone was on the same page, and that’s my job. It’s not the head coach’s fault. I called 66T, a running play, and it didn’t work. It was a tough situation, but I should have handled it better.”

On the preceding play, Evan Moore caught a short pass but could not get out of bounds, which kept the clock running. The Browns ended up losing 23 seconds before the hand off to Hillis.

That sequence of plays shows why Wallace is still a back-up and why Moore doesn’t get on the field more during the game. The players have to do a better job understanding the game situation.

“We called two plays — one to get us the first down and one to either throw it into the end zone or to the sideline and get out of bounds; that was the design,” Shurmur said. “From there, we wanted to make sure we got the clock stopped on the second down play. Evan caught the ball on the sideline, did not get out of bounds, so the clock was still running. Then, what we wanted to do was get the clock stopped. Get the clock stopped and then, be able to regroup in the huddle, maybe have one play at the end zone. If we don’t, kick the field goal. That’s what we wanted to get done.”

Thanks to a Josh Cribbs 84-yard punt return for a touchdown – about time Shurmur called that particular play, don’t you think? – and a Wallace to Moore touchdown pass, the Browns climbed back into the game and inexplicably trailed just 20-14 with 8:22 left in the game.

The defense forced a three-and-0ut and the Browns moved to their own 45 before facing fourth-and-five. Shurmur went for it (right decision) but Wallace’s pass to Peyton Hillis in the flat was stopped for no gain (bad play call).

The Browns had one last chance to get the ball back as they forced the Ravens into a fourth-and-2 at the Cleveland 37-yard-line. Coming out of a timeout, the Ravens went to a hard count, hoping to force someone on the Browns to jump off sides.

Need we say that defensive tackle Phil Taylor took the bait?

“It was the first hard count and we stayed onside,” Taylor said. “The second time, I just jumped. Of course you feel bad, but you just got to move on.”

It happens, but still …

“In the timeout, we talked about the potential of that happening,” Shurmur said. “I’ve seen it, and we had a nice huddle to discuss that might happen. And then, you’re out there playing and you can’t do that.”

“I told (Phil) that if you play in this league a long time, things like that are going to happen,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “You’ve just got to learn from it. We’ve never been in that situation all year. We’ll talk about it. It’s one of those things where you wish you could get it back. He’s young and he had a lot of learning experiences this year. He’s done a tremendous job.”

As usual, there were a few bright spots. Hillis ran for 112 yards, showing how a healthy running game can help the offense. Cribbs found the end zone on his punt return and, after allowing Ray Rice to run for 204 yards in the first meeting of the season, the Browns held him to 87 yards and no touchdowns.

And the Browns could have quit after falling behind 20-0 on the road against a team that is battling for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But they hung in there and played themselves back into a position where they could have won the game.

But it wasn’t enough to avoid another loss in another lost season. It just never is.

And it wasn’t enough to quiet the bleating of the anti-Shurmur crowd, who want to find fault with everything the team does.

Losing to the Ravens is nothing new for the Browns – they’ve done it twice a year for four consecutive years now. And the past two years, the Browns lost by an average of 17 points to the Ravens – not even the revisionists can spin that.

The Browns flat out stink when they play within the division and until they get that problem fixed, nothing is going to change.

For now, though, the Browns gave everyone a reason to watch until the end yesterday and didn’t do anything to hurt their draft position.

At this point in the season, that’s probably the best Christmas present fans could ask for from the team.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Browns vs. Ravens – Week 16

The Seneca Wallace era continues, as the Browns head to Baltimore for a Christmas Eve match-up with the Ravens.

Probably not the best Christmas present the NFL could give to Browns fans.

The Opposition

Baltimore’s record: 10-4 (tied for first in the AFC North)
Offensive rank: 15th overall/16th passing/16th rushing
Defensive rank: 3rd overall/4th passing/2nd rushing
All-time record: Ravens lead 18-7′ the Browns are 3-9 on the road against the Ravens
Last meeting: Baltimore won, 24-10, in Week 13
The line: Browns (+13)

What to Watch For

How the Browns respond to playing the Ravens for the second time this season.

In the first meeting, the Ravens had their way with the Browns, rushing for 290 yards behind Ray Rice’s 204 yards and Ricky Williams’ 76 yards.

“Obviously it wasn’t what we wanted the first time,” defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said in his weekly press conference. “(Rice) is an exceptional player. I don’t know that we can make sure things happen, but we’ll certainly try not to have that happen again. They’re very good at what they do. We’ve made some adjustments. We’ll just have to see if they work out the way we would like them to work out. Obviously, they’ll make adjustments too. They do an outstanding job. He’s an exceptional player.”

In the past two games, the Browns have done better with their run defense, holding Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall to 76 yards (although the Steelers did run for 5.3 yards per carry) and Arizona’s Beanie Wells to 51 yards (and limited the Cardinals to just 3.1 yards per carry).

The Browns may be catching a break as wide receiver Anquan Boldin will miss the game with a knee injury, which means the defense may be able to focus even more on the running game. Of course, that could open up tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson as options for quarterback Joe Flacco, and we all know how much the Browns struggle in covering tight ends.

On offense, Wallace makes his second consecutive start at quarterback.

“I think any player, and you see it quite frequently early in the year, there’s a huge improvement from game one and game two and I think I’m looking for that (with Wallace),” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s going to be, as I mentioned earlier in the week, more comfortable with the speed of the game. He’ll be more familiar with the receivers he’s throwing to and just generally more comfortable and I’m hoping that will mean he’ll play even better.”

Last year in his second start – also against Baltimore – Wallace’s passing yardage went down, but his completion percentage (75 percent vs. 51.6) and quarterback rating (103 vs. 73.2) were both considerably higher than his first start. So there may be something there.

Oh, and the Browns have still never beaten Flacco, who is now 7-0 vs. Cleveland.

The Prediction

The Browns have looked better the past two weeks, even though they lost both games.

And for first time in a while, the team had a relatively normal week, without dealing with any manufactured controversies.

But the Ravens are still playing for a first-round bye and home playoff game and, after their poor performance last Sunday night against San Diego, they should be up to the task of facing the Browns.

We’ll take the Ravens with a later cover.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 8-5-1.

(Photo by Cleveland Browns.com)

***

Take a moment to check out this feature story from NFL.com about how the Browns helped deliver a special holiday gift for Felix Poteate II of the U.S. Navy and his veteran father.

NFL gets it right with Browns

The Cleveland Browns will not be disciplined by the NFL for their handling of quarterback Colt McCoy’s concussion.So after all the hand wringing, the cries from some Browns fans using McCoy’s injury as a call for coach Pat Shurmur’s job, the proclamations that the Browns will pay for what they did, the NFL told us what we knew from the start:

While the team obviously mismanaged the situation, the Browns did not intentionally ignore an injured player and put him back in the game.

Rather than punish the Browns for no reason, or simply for a public relations move, the NFL decided to further strengthen its efforts to help teams and players deal with head injuries by deciding that certified athletic trainers will be stationed at games starting this weekend to monitor players for possible concussions.

“We believe these are positive steps in enhancing overall player safety, and the Browns fully support any measures that can help the medical staffs at games,” Browns vice president of media relations Neal Gulkis told The Beacon Journal.

No surprise that there is one person in all of this who still doesn’t get it – Pittsburgh’s James Harrison.

“Something should be done to them, I would think,” Harrison told NFL.com. “I don’t know. I got a game, what should they get? I guess he’s a little shorter, who knows? I don’t know. When it came down to it, my helmet hit his. Oh well.”

Oh well, indeed.

***

Two interesting notes, one good, one bad, at Pro Football Focus, first on defensive end Jayme Mitchell:

You may not have realized this, but Jayme Mitchell (-4.7) actually played 53 snaps against the Cardinals. A Cardinals team that features Levi Brown, the lowest rated left tackle in our Pass Blocking Efficiency ranking heading into the week. So Mitchell, who had two sacks against Jake Long earlier in the year (just how injured was Long?) may have expected to turn around his slumping season. He didn’t. In fact he didn’t even make a contribution on the stat sheet as Brown swallowed him up in the pass game, and Jeff King had fun moving him about in the run game. I hate to say such definitively negative things but Mitchell is hands down the worst starting defensive end in the league. It’s frankly ridiculous the Browns thought that Mitchell, who managed ten snaps last year as a Viking, could hold up to the heavy workload they’ve expected of him.

The Browns only gave up a seventh-round pick for Mitchell. This year is all about finding out who can play and who can’t; if Mitchell can’t cut it the Browns didn’t really lose anything.

Then there is this on Shawn Lauvao:

I didn’t expect to be writing such positive things about Shawn Lauvao (+4.5) given he had a match up with Darnell Dockett. However Lauvao, who did have some help dealing with him in the passing game, more than held his own and comprehensively won their battle in the run game, using Docketts’ desire to get up field against him. The Browns right guard will look back at his best performance as being one where he started exceptionally well, managing to take out two Cardinals defenders with a cut block on Clevelands’ second offensive play.

If Lauvao and Jason Pinkston can continue to improve, the Browns offensive line starts to look a little bit better for next season and, while they still need to draft lineman to build depth, this could allow them to focus on other areas of need come April.

***

It’s not all bad news for the defensive line, as Cold Hard Football Facts points out:

The defense at least continued to show some promise for the future. The rookie defensive end Sheard added two sacks to his team-high total, which is now at 7.5 sacks. With both him and defensive tackle Phil Taylor playing every game and combining for 68 solo tackles and 11.5 sacks, the defensive line continues to show signs that it can become a force for years to come with a few more improvements.

With Sheard, Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin all under the age of 25, the Browns are finally building a defensive line that can keep opposing quarterbacks up at night.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Here’s a playmaker, Browns fans

We came across an interesting article this morning about Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy in the Philadelphia Sports Daily.

The article makes a case for McCoy as the best back in the NFL, citing his 1,273 yards rushing, 17 touchdowns and 4.9 yards per carry this season. He’s also rushed for 82 first downs; no other back in the league has run for more than 63.

In a year where the Browns have lacked playmakers on offense, it’s hard not to think back to the 2009 draft, when the Browns passed not once, not twice, but three times on selecting McCoy, who went to the Eagles in the second round with the 53rd pick.

The Browns decided that, rather than McCoy, they’d rather have a wide receiver who will probably be out of the league next year (Brian Robiskie), a No. 4 wide receiver (Mohamed Massaquoi) and a linebacker who is no longer in the NFL (David Veikune).

And there are people who still wonder why the Browns are in their current situation.

***

Big news on the sanction front today as Liverpool’s Luis Suárez received an eight match ban and was fined £40,000 after being found guilty of misconduct for “using insulting words towards” Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.

What, you thought we were talking about the slap on the wrist the NCAA game Ohio State?

Suárez allegedly racially abused Evra “at least 10 times” during a match in October at Anfield.

Oddly enough, Suárez was found guilty even though no one – other than Evra – heard the comments. According to the club’s statement on the decision:

“We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no-one else on the field of play – including Evra’s own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken.

It appears to us that the FA were determined to bring charges against Luis Suárez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November. Nothing we have heard in the course of the hearing has changed our view that Luis Suárez is innocent of the charges brought against him and we will provide Luis with whatever support he now needs to clear his name.”

And somehow the FA missed – or chose to ignore – that Evra admitted that he insulted Suárez in Spanish in the “most objectionable of terms.”

Just another case of their being one set of rules for Manchester United and one for everybody else.

***

Not a huge surprise as it appears likely that Seneca Wallace will start again this week at quarterback for the Browns.

“Seneca (Wallace) right now will take the reps and Colt McCoy is making progress,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Tuesday. “It’s too early to tell whether he’ll be available this week. There are a lot of steps he has to go through before he’s ready to play.”

That’s most likely for the best, as there is really no need to put McCoy back on the field unless he’s 100 percent recovered from his concussion. The Browns have plenty of film on him to help them make a decision in the off-season.

In related news, the NFL announced today that trainers will be stationed at games effective immediately to monitor players for possible concussions. The trainer likely will be stationed somewhere in the press box of each stadium to monitor the game and assist the medical staff of both teams.

Good to see the league put some action behind its words when it comes to dealing with concussions. After all, if they can have someone at each game worrying about the players’ socks, they can certainly have someone on hand to deal with something this important.

***

Finally, here’s a cool graphic from Midwest Sports Fans representing how on any given Sunday any NFL team can win – yes, even the Browns. (h/t Brian McCarthy, NFL PR)

(Photo by Getty Images)

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