Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Cavs four wins away from something special

When the NBA Finals tip off tonight at 9, it will mark the beginning of the end for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs entered the 2014-15 NBA season with raised expectations after the return of LeBron James, but even the most hardcore Cavs fan knew that tonight was far from a certainty. The team had a new coach who, while not a rookie in the true sense, was new to the NBA, and a roster full of players who had never been tested in the meat grinder of the NBA Playoffs.

“Anybody talking about us winning it all, I think they’re being unfair to those great NBA teams that are out there that have either won it or have been there to win it, and also to us as a team that’s talented but new,” head coach David Blatt said a few days before the season opener. “We have a lot of work to do before we can start claiming anything before it’s time.”

A large part of why the Cavs are one of the two teams still playing is due to the changes the squad made during the season.

There is probably no way the Cavs would be in the finals if Dion Waiters was on the team rather than Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. And while general manager David Griffin may still have made the trade for Timofey Mozgov if Anderson Varajeo hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury, there is no way of knowing for sure. As good as Varajeo is, Mozgov brings a different dimension to the defense and the post-season may have played out differently if Varajeo was on the floor rather than Mozgov.

Even with a dominant presence like James on the roster, the Cavs are a team in just about every way you want to define that word, which is part of why the looming end of the season is a touch bittersweet.

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Justin Gilbert is the Browns invisible man

justin gilbert confounded browns
A little more than 12 months after he walked across the stage at Radio City Music Hall, Cleveland Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert has transformed into the team’s invisible man.

Which is exceedingly hard to do when you were the eighth overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.

While not as spectacular as fellow rookie Johnny Manziel‘s failed first year in Orange and Brown (and certainly not as publicized), Gilbert had a debut season in Cleveland that left him nowhere to go but up.

To find out how Gilbert is doing that, check out our latest post at Dawg Pound Daily.

Johnny Manziel in another incident with a fan

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With the Cleveland Browns having a few days off until Organized Team Activities resume on Monday, the players have the weekend to themselves.

Which, apparently, means we are contractually obligated to have some kind of national Johnny Manziel story as Manziel was involved with a fan who was harassing him at a golf tournament in Texas.

To see what all the fuss is about, check out our latest at Dawg Pound Daily.

Cleveland Browns: 5 keys to success in 2015

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Following a last-second road win in Atlanta last November, the Cleveland Browns were 7-4 and sitting atop the AFC North Division for the first time in seemingly forever.

The road to playoffs lay ahead of the Browns; unfortunately they were never able to locate the on-ramp and closed out the year with a five-game losing streak.

Despite the disappointing end to the 2014 season, optimism remains high about Cleveland’s undisputed No. 1 team as the club continues its preparations for the 2015 season.

This is Cleveland, though, where nothing is given and everything is earned. For the Browns to find success in 2015 they will have to earn it every step of the way.

To see what five things have to go right for the Browns this fall, check out our latest post at Dawg Pound Daily.

Four questions on linebacker Hayes Pullard

There is little that Hayes Pullard did not experience during his time years at USC.

Originally recruited by Pete Carroll, who left for the NFL and Seattle before Pullard could suit up in Cardinal and Gold, Pullard played under three head coaches – Lane Kiffin, Ed Odgeron and Steve Sarkisian – and four defensive coordinators. (Sounds like he would have been right at home a few years ago with the Cleveland Browns.)

There is also one other thing the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Pullard did at USC – he performed.

To find out more about Pullard, check out our latest 4 Questions post at Dawg Pound Daily.

Four questions on tight end Randall Telfer

The Cleveland Browns had a hole to fill at the tight end position this off-season after former All-Pro Jordan Cameron left the team in free agency.

The team still had block-first tight ends Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray, and added Rob Housler in free agency, but decided they still needed more and drafted USC’s Randall Telfer in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

To learn a bit more about Telfer, we turned to Reign of Troy for a four-question Q&A in our latest post at Dawg Pound Daily.

What will new extra-point rules mean to the Browns?

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The NFL changed the rules on extra points on Tuesday, but how it will impact the Cleveland Browns remains to be seen.

Starting this fall, extra points will be kicked from the 15-yard line, while two-point conversion attempts will still snap from the two-yard line. The new rule, which owners approved by a 30-2 vote at the NFL’s Spring League Meeting, also gives the defense the ability to score two points on returns.

One person who is not a fan of the rule change is Cleveland special teams coach Chris Tabor.

To see what all the fuss is about, check out our latest post at Dawg Pound Daily.

Cleveland Browns veteran QBs have been bridge to nowhere

Garcia-provides-positive-performanceWhen the Cleveland Browns signed quarterback Josh McCown in February he joined a long, but less than distinguished, fraternity in franchise history.

McCown is the latest “bridge quarterback” who will try and help the Browns will while holding the quarterback position warm until the next great quarterback arrives at First Energy Stadium.

The Browns have tried to cross this bridge several times in franchise history – especially since returning to the NFL in 1999 – with less than stellar results.

To find out where McCown may fall on the list, check out our latest post at Dawg Pound Daily.

Mike Pettine growing more comfortable in second year

mike pettine no panic
As the Cleveland Browns work their way through the off-season, it is becoming evident that head coach Mike Pettine is growing more comfortable in his role.

From the day he was hired, Pettine has come across as a confident, but not arrogant, head coach. He has a way of getting his point across without being condescending, and his lack of double-speak when explaining the team’s goals and process makes him the first Browns coach to really connect with the fanbase since the team returned in 1999.

Pettine was at it again on Friday at the 16th annual Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf Tournament at Barrington Golf Club when, during a session with the media, he talked about how he is taking a greater interest in the offense in his second year in charge.

To see what Pettine said, and what it means, check out our latest post at Dawg Pound Daily.

Four questions on fullback Malcolm Johnson

malcolm johnson brownsMalcolm Johnson, a sixth-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, is an interesting player.

The 6-foot-1, 231-pound Johnson was listed as a tight end at Mississippi State, but also lined up as an H-back, wide receiver and, occasionally, as a fullback in head coach Dan Mullen’s offense.

It is at fullback that the Browns currently have Johnson listed on the roster as new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is looking to create as many weapons as possible for Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel or whoever happens to line up under center each week for the Browns.

To learn a little bit more about the versatile Johnson, we talked with Maroon & White Nation in our latest post at Dawg Pound Daily.

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