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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Joe Haden”

For one day, (almost) everyone in Brownstown is happy

For the first time in almost a year, Cleveland work up Monday morning to a victory by the Cleveland Browns.

Like most things in life, there was good and bad on display Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, but for one day, at least, the Browns were able to overcome the bad and walk out with a win. In beating the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns snapped franchise-record-tying 11-game losing streak, as well as a 12-game losing streak in the AFC North, and gaves Brown coach Pat Shurmur his first division win.

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Browns do football things, people get worked up

The Cleveland Browns closed out training camp on Wednesday by giving the media something to blow out of proportion.

Coach Pat Shurmur got into it with starting corner back Joe Haden during the morning practice and, after a few choice words, sent Haden to the locker room. The fracas all started when Haden brought down wide receiver Travis Benjamin after a play.

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Not the best day in Brownstown

It was a tough day on Wednesday for the Cleveland Browns.

First came the news that rookie running back Trent Richardson – only the No. 3 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft – is heading to Florida to have his left knee further evaluated by Dr. James Andrews. Richardson missed practice on Tuesday with soreness in the knee, which Andrews operated on in February. Richardson had an MRI and is visiting Andrews for a second opinion.

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New sheriffs in the Browns secondary

We really liked what we heard last week from second-year defensive backs Joe Haden and T.J. Ward as they talked about their expectations for the upcoming season and their plans for taking on greater leadership roles with the team.

“As a rookie, you can come in and be a leader, but how are you going to tell a 10-year veteran how to do something when it’s your third game?” Haden said in published reports. “This year, we have a year under our belt. We feel more comfortable not wondering how you’re going to feel in Week 7, how are we going to feel in Week 8. We feel more comfortable. We know what’s going on. We know the system we’re in isn’t going to be too hard.”

“We’re definitely going to take over the defense,” Ward said in published reports. “We’ll see about the team, but we’re definitely going to be leaders in our own right.”

One thing that really stood out is both players seemed charged up about the switch to Dick Jauron’s defensive system.

“It’s not going to be as difficult as our defense was last year,” Ward said. “We had a bunch of schemes and a bunch of techniques and calls that, I think at times, confused some of the guys on defense and maybe our cohesion wasn’t there as well last year. But I think this year it’s more basic and you just use your athletic ability and skills as a football player to make plays.”

“When we’re looking at the scheme as the defensive backfield, one thing that (defensive backs) coach (Jerome) Henderson said was they are going to put you in a position so you can make a play,” Haden said. “It’s more you versus your opponent, you versus the man across from you, more than trying to beat them mentally.

“I like my chances. I like T.J.’s chances. I like (cornerback) Sheldon’s [Brown] chances. (It should help knowing) what you got to do, just being really confident in the play call.”

The comments about the defensive system being simpler this year stand out even more now that cornerback Eric Wright has left the Browns and signed with Detroit.

We’re not going to bag on the previous regime, especially on the defensive side. But the comments about how the system may have been overly complicated last year helps explain why the secondary struggled at times, most notably against Baltimore in Week 3.

How much of the problems – which were magnified in that game – were the result of a coaching staff trying to do too much with a relatively inexperienced secondary?

Wright was ripped for his performance in that game and never seemed to fully recover, at least in the eyes of many fans.

“It’s hard to dig yourself out of that type of hole when you have the worst game of your career,” Wright told The Plain Dealer over the weekend. “Then, the team’s losing, and we had a young corner in Joe Haden who looked great playing. There was a lot of negative attention around my struggles, and it was hard to overcome.”

And off-season comments from Browns GM Heckert – “We thought we had three really good corners. Eric Wright, whatever happened to him I have no idea. If Eric Wright would have played like he played the year before, we probably would have had one of top (groups of) three guys around. But Eric Wright didn’t play very well.” – clearly didn’t help Wright feel wanted in Cleveland.

Wright’s departure once again leaves the Browns thin at the position. After starters Haden and Sheldon Brown, the roster shows Mike Adams, Coye Francies, rookie Buster Skrine and undrafted free agent Carl Gettis.

Additionally, Brown thinks Wright would have been a good fit for Jauron’s system.

“I knew the staff that they were bringing in, I knew the system, and it’s a system that he would’ve really loved,” Brown told The Plain Dealer. “I wish him the best of luck. I know he’ll do well wherever he goes because he’s a talented player.”

So while we’re a bit worried about the team’s depth at cornerback – shades of last year – we’re encouraged by the attitude of the players who are still on the team.

“I get paid to cover,” Haden said. “(Ward) gets paid to hit. Whoever comes in here, we’re going to try to get them into what we’ve got going. But we’re going to do what we’ve got to do.”

Receivers around the league have been warned.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Browns blockers earn national ranking

Even with the Cleveland Indians in first place and the NFL lockout rolling along, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment to think about the Cleveland Browns.

The Fifth Down blog at The New York Times spent the past week rolling out its Top 10 list for each position and the Browns are well represented – especially on the left side of the offensive line.

Joe Thomas repeated as the top tackle in the NFL, someone who “makes the game look easy, especially in pass protection. Not a mauler, but as reliable a run blocker as you’ll find.”

Alex Mack moved up one spot, and is the second-best center, a “superb technician who holds his own in a phone booth and gets out in front with ease.”

Eric Steinbach dropped two spots at guard, but is still the seventh best as “he was Cleveland’s most impressive lineman in ’10. Can get to virtually any spot on the field.”

The rankings for Thomas, Mack and Steinbach are even more impressive when you take a look at the defensive ranks, which are filled with players that the Browns have to deal with in the division:

  • At defensive tackle, Pittsburgh’s Casey Hamilton (No. 7) and Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata (No. 1) were in the Top 10.
  • At outside linebacker, Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley (No. 7) and Jerome Harrison (No. 1), along with Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs (No. 3) were all Top 10.
  • At inside linebacker, Baltimore’s Ray Lewis (No. 8) and Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons (No. 4) were both Top 10.

Gives you a good idea of what the Browns face twice a year and emphasizes the importance of building a solid offensive line.

The Browns were represented on defense, as corner back Joe Haden was mentioned as a player who could make next year’s list as his “uncanny change-of-direction ability alone will make him top-10 before Halloween.”

Now if we could just see these guys on the field again sometime soon, all will be good.

(Photo by Getty Images)

The Interchangeable Fan

In the past few months, as Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel’s web of lies have unraveled and more shenanigans have been exposed in the football program, we’ve realized something that had previously escaped us:

Ohio State fans are college football’s equivalent of Pittsburgh Steeler fans.

They both have an irrational sense of entitlement, they both think their team’s you-know-what doesn’t stink, and no matter what their coach, owner, athletic director or player says or does, they always fall back on the argument that “(fill in the blank) did something worse” or that critics are just “haters.”

They both stagger through life with blinders on, seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil.

And both carry a paranoia that someone is always out to get them.

With OSU fans it’s the NCAA or the media, primarily The Columbus Dispatch. We know it is hard for some people to understand, but The Dispatch is not a public relations arm of the university, existing only to write fawning pieces about the latest recruiting class.

With Steeler fans, the NFL is the boogeyman.

And you truly haven’t experienced paranoia and irrational thinking until you’ve heard Adrian from the Burgh on Sirius NFL Radio. Words simply cannot do him justice.

After taking a closer look, Scarlet and Gray & Black and Gold are closer on the color wheel than most would want to admit.


We’re sure the Bengals were happy when they made wide receiver A.J. Green their first pick in last month’s NFL Draft.

But being the Bengals, they apparently forgot how Browns corner back Joe Haden shut down Green in college:

  • In 2009, the Gators won a blowout over the Bulldogs, 41-17. Green was a non-factor. Haden held the receiver to just three catches for 50 yards and zero touchdowns. Green’s biggest play in the game was a 19-yard reception. But other than that, Green had trouble shaking Haden.
  • In 2008, Florida won another blowout, 49-10. Green had more success this time, with five receptions for 91 yards. Probably worth noting is Green’s quarterback that year was Matthew Stafford, who turned out to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Detroit Lions. To Haden’s credit, he intercepted Stafford in the game and returned the pick 88 yards.

Of course, that’s what make the Bengals the Bengals.


The ’70s were a strange, strange decade. (h/t UniWatch)

What is there left to say?

We’ve pretty much run out of things to write about the Browns following Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Ravens.

The team just doesn’t have enough talent yet to overcome four turnovers against a team headed to the playoffs.

“What killed us were the turnovers and the mistakes,” coach Eric Mangini said. “The Ravens are very difficult to beat when you play flawless football. When you turn the ball over as many times as we did, it makes it really, really difficult.”

Colt McCoy threw three interceptions, all on passes intended for Mohamed Massaquoi. It was nice to see McCoy throwing deep but he picked a bad day to have his worst game of the year.

“Turnovers killed us today and most of it is on me,” McCoy told The Plain Dealer. “I’ve got to fix that. I’ve got to take care of the ball and I’ve got to know where Ed Reed is. He read my eyes the whole game and made plays. As a quarterback, you have to go back and watch it. I’m going to play these guys for a long time.”

Even with the turnovers the Browns had chances in the game, but questionable play calling at the end of the first half and some bad luck at the start of the second half derailed them.

Trailing 13-7 the Browns had a first down at the Baltimore 13-yard line and holding two timeouts. But the coaches decided to play it safe, at one point letting 45 seconds run off the clock between plays, and eventually settled for a field goal. The Browns were hoping to score but not leave any time on the clock for the Ravens.

“Get the points that are available from our perspective and not give their offense, which is a really good offense, a chance to go down and score,” Mangini said in explaining the decision.

That seems pretty questionable. The Browns have trouble scoring points, any time they are in the red zone they should only be worrying about getting into the end zone; they can focus on the other team’s offense after they pull that off.

The Browns opened the second half by trying an onside kick, but the ball rolled out of bounds after about eight yards and the Ravens took over at the Cleveland 38-yard line. The coaches are being criticized for calling the play, but it was a good call as Joe Haden was in position to recover the kick, but unluckily the ball rolled out of bounds.

“It was a great call,” Dawson said. “When you’re playing to win, that’s the kind of call you make. The ball just didn’t bounce the way I wanted it to, that’s bad execution on my part.”

Sometimes even when you make the right call the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. It happens. Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good call at the right time.

After failing behind 20-10 the Browns kept fighting. McCoy had the team moving with about nine minutes left in the third quarter but the drive stalled when the Browns were called for the two penalties the Ravens accepted on the game.

First, McCoy hit Brian Robiskie with a 42-yard pass down to the Ravens’ 19-yard line, but Robiskie was called for a pass interference penalty that was dubious at best. John St. Clair followed with a holding call on the next play and suddenly the Browns faced 3rd-and-17 on their own 29.

And that was pretty much it for the game.

There were a few bright spots. Joe Haden grabbed his sixth interception, made five tackles, and recorded his first career sack and forced fumble. He also limited Anquan Boldin to two catches for 15 yards.

“My mission is every time I go out to try to lock down receivers no matter who it is or what they did to us before,” Haden said. “I just want to go out and don’t let people catch passes on me. When I’m in man-to-man coverage, don’t let them catch it. I knew he had a good game on us last game, so I came out with the whole mindset to lock him down or lock down whoever was in front of me.”

The Browns also were 7-of-11 on third down, after going 6-of-32 in their last three games.

And has happened all season, the winning team had praise for the Browns effort.

“This team over the last two years just keeps getting better and better,” said Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh. “This is a legitimate football team. How many close games have they played in? You just go down and look at the scores and you’re like, ‘oh my goodness.’ Then they dominate two of the best teams in the league — the Patriots and the Saints. We haven’t been able to do that this year against that kind of competition. This football team is really, really good. They may have their quarterback. I think they’re really well-coached on both sides of the ball and special teams. We knew what we were in for coming in.”

That has to count for something, yes?

Browns vs. Ravens – Week 16

After three weeks on the road – and coming off back-to-back losses that have sucked some of the positive energy out of an otherwise encouraging season – the Browns finally have come back to Cleveland.

The Browns close out the 2010 season with consecutive home games, starting today against Baltimore.

The Opposition

Baltimore: 10-4
Offensive rank: 19th overall/16th passing/16th rushing
Defensive rank: 10th overall/14th passing/5th rushing
All-time record: Browns trail 7-16, with a 3-9 mark at home. The Browns have lost three of the last four at home against Baltimore.
The line: Browns +4

What to Watch For

How the Browns defense handles the Ravens passing game. In the first meeting Anquan Bolden torched the secondary, pulling in eight catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns. This match-up will be a good opportunity to see the progress rookies Joe Haden and T.J. Ward have made in the passing game.

While the Baltimore defense gets all the national hype, if you look closer at some key numbers the Browns aren’t that much behind the Ravens:

  • The teams are tied for 14th against the pass
  • The Ravens are giving up 4.0 yards per rush; the Browns 4.1
  • The Ravens have given up 20 touchdown passes; the Browns 21
  • The Ravens are giving up 18 points per game; the Browns 19
  • The teams are tied, with Pittsburgh, for fewest rushing touchdowns allowed, with five.

So while the new penny shine has reportedly come off defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he still has the defense playing pretty well.

But that last stat shows just how hard it is going to be for the Browns to compete as they are in a division with Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They don’t get the cupcakes in the AFC West and NFC West every year.

Offensively, we know what the Browns are going to try and do: run the ball with Peyton Hillis and let Colt McCoy make a few plays to keep drives going and hope for the best.

After ripping the Ravens for 144 yards in the first meeting, Hillis will be a marked man today. And we have to wonder just how much he has left after 14 games, considering he has accounted for:

  • 68 percent of the Browns rushing attempts
  • 75 percent of the Browns rushing yards
  • 22 percent of the Browns receptions
  • 17 percent of the Browns receiving yards
  • 37 percent of the Browns total offensive output

If you look at his last four games, Hillis may be ready for a solid day today. He’s been up-and-down the last few weeks, alternating good games (131 vs. Carolina, 108 vs. Buffalo) with weaker games (57 vs. Miami, 59 vs. Cincinnati) so if that trend continues he should break the 100-yard mark today. Which would certainly help the Browns efforts to pull out a win.

The Browns will have little chance if they can’t get their problems on third down fixed. Over the past three games the offense is only 6-of-32 on third down, a shockingly bad 18 percent conversion rate. Clearly that’s not going to get it done today against Baltimore.

The Best Browns vs. Ravens Game I’ve Seen

Nothing really stands out from the 11 times the Browns have played the Ravens at home. Forced to choose, we’ll go with the season-opening win in 2004. It was the first time the Browns won a season-opening game since returning in 1999 and was probably the high point of Jeff Garcia’s time as quarterback. The PD‘s game story is here.

The Prediction

It’s hard to see a way for the Browns to win this week.

We’re not buying into the national story that the team is playing for coach Eric Mangini’s job. As frustrating as the past two weeks have been, it doesn’t outweigh all the good that has gone on this season.

Baltimore is a better team and has more to play for today. But we don’t expect the Browns to just roll over; this team isn’t built or coached that way.

So we’re expecting more of the same, a tough, close game, but one where the Ravens grind out a close win, covering the spread in the meantime.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 2-11-1.

Final Thoughts on the Browns & Week 13

Still relishing the Browns road victory against the Dolphins on Monday and so, so glad Nolan Carroll dropped that ball.


Joe Haden continues to show why he was the seventh pick in the draft in April. He had another interception on Sunday – his fourth consecutive game with a pick – five tackles and broke up four passes, the biggest when he knocked the ball away from Miami’s Brian Hartline in the end zone.

“They kept throwing it. I have no idea (why),” Haden told The Chronicle-Telegram. “I thought after I broke up the first two that they weren’t going to throw two more. But I just feel like every play I go out there, I have to be ready for them to come at me, so I have to be on top of my game every play.

“One of my strengths is the deep ball, just staying on top and being able to make a play on the ball. So they just kept trying and I just kept knocking it down.”

Coach Eric Mangini talked about Haden’s tackling ability in his Monday press conference:

“What I really liked about Joe’s game last week is probably different than what I’m sure you’d think, the way he tackled,” Mangini said. “That was a real strength of his in college and I he did an excellent job of that I thought last game. There were plays there where a missed tackle, the ball would have gone for a long way. Ronnie Brown on the screen, if Joe doesn’t make that play, he’s going for a long way. It was an open field tackle, one-on-one against Ronnie Brown, that’s hard to do.

“Those yards he saved aren’t a measurable stat, but it’s significant. I think that he’s playing with a lot of confidence, which is good. He has a much, much higher understanding of what we are trying to do, defensively, in terms of scheme.”

“The last quarter of the season he’s playing lights out,” David Bowens told The Plain Dealer. “They tested him a few times and Joe held his own. Not only that, but in the tackling game, he supported well.”

Good thing Browns GM Tom Heckert and the coaching staff didn’t fall for the nonsense about Haden being “too slow.”


While any Browns win is a good win, the lads at Waiting For Next Year came up with some disturbing numbers from the game yesterday:

The Browns ran 11 first down plays in the (first) half, one of which was a kneel down at the end of the quarter. So of those 10 plays, exactly 1 went for more than 3 yards. (That was a 13 yard rumble by Hillis on the first play of the second possession.) Here are the results from first down in that half- 0, 13, 2, 1, 0, 1, 2, 0, 3, 0 for an average of 2.2 yards on first down.

Those numbers go a long way toward explaining why the Browns were just 2-of-14 on third downs against Miami. The Browns can’t win too many games with that kind of non-production on first down. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can make over the last quarter of the season.


It wouldn’t be another week in Brownstown without a nonsensical story about the future of coach Eric Mangini – and this one is better than most.

Jon Gruden’s son, Deuce Gruden II, says the old man will leave the ESPN broadcast booth in another year to take over the as coach of the Browns.

Or maybe he’ll wind up in San Francisco. Little Deuce wasn’t really sure.

We’ll forget for a moment how absurd all this is; we’re just glad to read a story that attributes the comments to someone other than “unnamed sources.”


It seems more likely that the Grudens would be looking at Denver, where Josh McDaniels is out as Broncos coach.

A year after being all the rage following an 6-0 start, McDaniels went 5-17 in a shocking flameout.

At least he hung around long enough to send Peyton Hillis to the Browns.


I know they aren’t getting much love, but we liked the Packers throwback uniforms from yesterday. And we absolutely loved the Buccaneers throwbacks.


And while we’re on the subject of things we love, we can’t say enough about the NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV. While watching the Browns yesterday we were able to keep tabs on the Chicago-Detroit game that we had action on; watch the Bengals bungle their way into another loss against New Orleans; and see our money pick come through when Atlanta beat Tampa.

Life is good sometimes.

Browns get a second date with Lady Luck

Lady Luck enjoyed the company of the Browns so much she went on the road with them to Miami and watched as the Browns pulled out a last-minute win over the Dolphins – the first win in Miami for the Browns since 1970.

Offensively this wasn’t Miami-San Diego in the 1981 playoffs, but the Browns defense came up with several big plays at the right time to keep the team in the game and the Browns finally won on a Phil Dawson field goal as time expired.

A week after poor tackling almost doomed the Browns against Carolina, and on the heels of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan saying that defense was “looking forward to this challenge,” the defensive highlights included:

  • Three interceptions, including another one by Joe Haden, who also added five solo tackles and four passes defended. Despite the ramblings of some, Haden has quickly shown that he is the real deal and one of the best draft picks in recent Browns history.
  • A blocked field goal and a key fourth-quarter sack by Shaun Rogers on third down.
  • Holding the Dolphins to 4-of-14 on third down, making sure the defense didn’t wear down as the game went on.
  • Holding Chad Henne to a Derek Anderson-like 37.8 passer rating. Of course, that may be a bit unfair to Henne, as Anderson was pulled from the Cardinals game today after going 7-0f-20 for 93 yards and a 29.8 QB rating. He did have time to get in his weekly interception, however.
  • Limiting the Dolphins to just 3.6 yards per rush.

The biggest defensive play came with 1:05 left when David Bowens deflected a Henne pass into the arms of Mike Adams, who returned the ball to the Miami two-yard line and set up Dawson’s game winning kick.

“It’s about time for us to win a game like that,” Adams told The Plain Dealer. “I got an early Christmas gift.”

Yes, yes it is.

Offensively the Browns … well … they did enough to win.

The Dolphins keyed their defense to stopping Peyton Hillis – the Browns only running threat with Josh Cribbs still slowed by his foot injury – and held Hillis to 57 yards on 18 carries and kept him out of the end zone.

With Hillis shut down, the Browns had to rely on Jake Delhomme. And while the Browns were horrible on third down – converting just two of 14 – Delhomme led the Browns on a 94-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.

Ben Watson had a big day with 10 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. Mohamed Massaquoi added four catches for 81 yards and Brian Robiskie even contributed two catches, albeit for only 10 yards.

And it was clear that Delhomme tried really hard to not make the killer mistake that would cost the Browns the game. He threw the ball away on a couple of occasions and ate the ball on a sack.

Honestly, he really did try, but it almost all came apart with 1:49 left in the game. Delhomme targeted Watson but the pass went directly to Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll.

There’s little doubt the play had TAINT written all over it, but miraculously Carroll dropped the ball.

“I should have made it,” Carroll told The Plain Dealer. “I saw the route. I knew it was coming before the play even happened because they ran the same thing earlier in the game. I just got to make the play. I score. I know for a fact I score.”

For the second week in a row the Browns caught a break and when Adams picked off the pass a minute later they won their second in a row.

Some may scoff that this was an ugly win, but there really is no such thing. For a team that never stops fighting, these kinds of wins reward that attitude and help the team stay positive and focused for the next game. Plus its about time the Browns had some luck come their way.

The win means the Browns are now:

  • 4-2 after starting the season 1-5
  • 9-7 in their last 16 games after their 1-12 start to last season.
  • Just as importantly, they are now 4-1 in December under coach Eric Mangini, a sure sign that this team keeps improving and won’t give up.

And with Buffalo and Cincinnati coming up the next two weeks, it’s not to hard to see this team finding itself at 7-7 when it comes how for the final two games of the season.

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