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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Mohamed Massaquoi”

Shurmur taking the social out of social media

Training camp is getting to Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur.

From integrating rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden into the offense, to dealing with injuries to seemingly half the defense, the possible suspension of cornerback Joe Haden, and chasing Eric “10-win” Mangini on the franchise’s career wins list, the stress and pressure seems to be getting to the second-year coach.

How else to explain Shurmur’s reaction earlier this week to Twitter?

Read more…

Odds & Ends with the Browns

We all know Cleveland Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson can make a tackle – after all he led the AFC last year with 158 of them – which is one of the reason’s the team rewarded him with a five-year deal with $19 million guaranteed.

But how many of those 158 tackles had true value? Well, according to Pro Football Focus, not as many as Browns fans might like for that kind of money.

According to the site, Jackson had 94 tackles – 19 more tackles than any other linebacker – in run defense. Sounds good so far.

But Jackson was on the field for a ridiculous 511 snaps where the opposing team ran the ball, meaning he recorded 18.4 percent of his tackles against the run, dropping to fifth overall in the league. Still not bad.

Jackson led the league with 52 stops (the site takes into consideration down and distance when accounting for a positive tackle) but that was only two more stops than Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson, who had 50 stops on 20 less tackles.

So when you get to the money stat, the Run Stop Percentage which measures how often a defender was responsible for stops in relation to how often they were on the field, Jackson doesn’t even make the Top 20 in the league.

Something the Browns may want to work on if they hope to improve on their 30th-ranked run defense.


Sticking with the stat game, Pro Football Focus looked at which wide receivers pick up the most yards per route they run.

And it’s no surprise the Mohamed Massaquoi was at the bottom of the list, gaining a meager 0.93 yards per route run, good for 104th in the NFL.

Interestingly, Jordon Norwood scored out at 1.60 yards per route run, picking up 268 receiving yards on 167 snaps. Not great by any stretch, but a definite improvement over the disappointing Massaquoi.

Looking at those numbers, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Massaquoi’s time in Cleveland comes to an end soon after the draft.


According to Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column, the Dolphins are showing serious interest in Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

King writes that “club officials, including GM Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin, dined with Tannehill in College Station Wednesday night, then spent about 90 minutes with him on the greaseboard Thursday after the workout.”

Sounds like Tannehill could draw some trade interest if the Dolphins decide they must trade up for him. And the Browns should be right in the middle of it, although there’s little reason to think they would be the ones moving up to take Tannehill.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Grading the Browns Receivers

Coming into the 2010 season, we knew the Browns were not exactly deep at the wide receiver position, but we thought the receivers might make enough progress to actually help the Browns out.

Well, that clearly didn’t happen. When your tight end leads the team in receptions – and your running back is second – you know you are not getting production out of the wide receivers.

Now, there is a growing movement that says it takes until their third year for wide receivers to really learn the game and consistently succeed on the field. Trying to compare starters Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie – both second-year players – to the league as a whole probably is a bit unfair. Yes, they are starters who were drafted in the second round, but they are only second-year players.

So we compared them to their peer group – the other 30 second-year receivers who accumulated stats this year – and the numbers still are not pretty.

MoMass was 14th in receptions and yards; Robiskie was 16th in receptions and 18th in yards. Massaquoi was 11th in average yards per catch while Robiskie was 26th – too many of those 5-yard receptions on third-and-six.

Finally, Massaquoi was 14th in touchdown receptions; Robiskie was 11th.

In other words, these guys really weren’t very good and it is hard to see either of them making a big enough leap next year to make the Browns better.

When you look at the numbers from the second-year receivers, it’s easy to see how players such as Hakeem Nicks (Giants), Percy Harvin (Vikings), Jeremy Maclin (Eagles), Austin Collie (Colts), Brandon Tate (Patriots) and Mike Wallace (Steelers) put up solid numbers. It’s not realistic to expect Massaquoi and Robiskie to match anyone from this group.

But what about Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola from the St. Louis Rams?

Amendola had 85 receptions – tops among second-year players and eighth overall – while Gibson pulled in 53 passes. All while playing with a rookie quarterback in Sam Bradford.

Oh, by the way, Gibson was a sixth-round draft pick while Amendola was an undrafted free agent.

So the excuses are pretty thin when it comes to trying to explain away the lack of production from the Browns starters. Massaquoi and Robiskie both try hard and their blocking skills add value to the running game, but it’s becoming more and more obvious they are not NFL-caliber receivers.

We will give both of them a D on the season.

As for the other receivers, Chansi Stuckey grew on us this year. He’s a decent third-down slot receiver who was second among Browns receivers this year with 40 catches. Josh Cribbs – who really should be a running back not a wide receiver – never got anything going this year, finishing with 23 receptions, only 3 more than last year, but did almost double his receiving yards.

A C for Stuckey and a D for Cribbs feels right.

At tight end, Ben Watson was a great pick-up, leading the team with 68 receptions and 763 yards. Those totals made him the fifth-best tight end in the league in receptions and yards. He was a reliable target for the trio of quarterbacks the Browns used this year.

Robert Royal has hands of stone and Evan Moore can’t stay healthy, so while Watson is a solid starter, at age 30 the Browns need to make sure they have a healthy, viable back-up behind him.

Let’s give Watson an A, Royal an F and Moore an incomplete.

When you look at the entire picture it’s clear the Browns need to upgrade the receiving position next year if they hope to take some of the pressure off the running game and give Colt McCoy someone to work with other than Watson and Peyton Hillis.

Did someone say AJ Green?

Final Thoughts on the Browns-Steelers

A day after the Browns fell to 1-5 on the season, all the talk is about the illegal – but unpenalized – hits James Harrison put on Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi.

Before the season, an article on article stated that “the reworded rules prohibit a player from launching himself off the ground and using his helmet to strike a player in a defenseless posture in the head or neck. The old rule only applied to receivers getting hit, but now it will apply to everyone.”

But on Monday, an NFL spokesman said the hit on Cribbs was legal because he was a runner on the play.

Apparently Cribbs is not in the class of players who fall into the category of “everyone.”

Thankfully the league is at least “reviewing” the hit on Massaquoi.

“The one against Mohamed was illegal,” Browns tight end Ben Watson told The Plain Dealer. “I can’t judge his character, I can judge his conduct. It was an illegal hit. He led with his head, he hit Mo right in the head, he dove at his head. It was an illegal play. Whether he meant to hurt him or not, I can’t comment on that. It was illegal and the league should take care of him with the max, whatever it is. If it’s a suspension, if it’s a fine, then I hope the league does whatever they can do.”

I don’t know; it seems as if the NFL pretty much lets the Steelers get away with whatever they want because they play “tough football.” But if the league is serious about head injuries, it’s hard to believe they can turn a blind eye to this.

“There’s strong testimonial for looking readily at evaluating discipline, especially in the areas of egregious and elevated dangerous hits,” Ray Anderson, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, told the Associated Press. “Going forward there are certain hits that occurred that will be more susceptible to suspension. There are some that could bring suspensions for what are flagrant and egregious situations.”

The tide is certainly turning against hits like the ones Harrison delivered. Even Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, long an NFL apologist, thinks enough is enough. In his Monday Morning Quarterback column King wrote:

“So many thoughts. One: It’s time to start ejecting and suspending players for flagrant hits, which I thought the (Brandon) Meriweather one was, and perhaps also the shot of Harrison on Massaquoi. Two: the league had better train its officials better considering there was no penalty on the Harrison hit on Massaquoi. The league had as a point of emphasis to officials this year that launching into a defenseless receiver would be a penalty and subject to discipline. So emphasize it.”

If Roger Goodell has lost Peter King, that could be like Lyndon Johnson losing Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam War – we may see some real action against Harrison.


Some other final thoughts:

  • Congrats to Phil Dawson for passing Lou Groza to become the Browns all-time leader in field goals. Hard to believe Dawson has been with the team since 1999; dude should definitely write a book.
  • When did Eric Wright turn into Brandon McDonald?
  • Chansi Stuckey had another nice day with four more catches; he’s turning into a reliable target from the slot position.
  • Brian Robiskie: 15 career games, 12 career catches.
  • Jerome Harrison didn’t show up in the box score for the Eagles on Sunday. Mike Bell rushing twice for three yards for the Browns.


See what others are saying:

Play McCoy the Rest of the Way: Waiting for Next Year

Harrison’s Postgame Comments show ambivalence, ignorance
: Waiting for Next Year

McCoy avoids meltdown
: Cleveland Frowns

NFL has yet to prove any real sympathy
: Bill Livingston, Plain Dealer

That’s nice, but … catch the ball

It’s nice that Mohamed Massaquoi doesn’t want to be a distraction or a stereotypical wide receiver diva.

“You want to stay within the game plan,” he told The Plain Dealer this week. “Last game we didn’t have any turnovers. We were moving the ball effectively. You don’t want to take away from the game plan, don’t want to become a distraction.”

And it’s even better that coach Eric Mangini is talking Massaquoi up, trying to keep his confidence high.

“The numbers aren’t there, but he’s made strides in a lot of areas,” Mangini said in the same article. “I don’t think it’s just purely numbers based. Would he love to have a lot more catches? Yeah. Would we like those numbers to be different? You want all your guys to have a lot of catches. It’s a function of getting the opportunity and when it comes taking advantage of it.”

And it is heartening that Massaquoi doesn’t see any reason to panic.

“It’s early. It’s very early,” Massaquoi said. “If this was week 11, 12, 13, 14, it might be a different conversation, but it’s still early. My time will come.”

The thing is, it’s not early. The Browns hit the quarter mark of the season Sunday against Cincinnati and it will be Massaquoi’s 20th game – it’s time to start catching the ball.

According to The Football Outsiders Almanac (Terry Pluto referenced them in his Sunday column), the average wide receiver catches about 57 percent of the passes thrown to him. Last season, Massaquoi was at 36 percent and, with only three catches this year after three games, the number can’t be much higher. Fellow receivers Chansi Stuckey (48 percent) and Brian Robiskie (35 percent) were just as bad.

If you look at his first 19 games, 35 percent of Massaquoi’s career catches and 39 percent of his career yards came in two games last season – the home game vs. Cincinnati and the Detroit game. For the other 17 games he’s played, he’s averaging 1.5 catches and 24 yards per game.

Some of that can be attributed to the quarterback play last year, but not all of it. It’s time for some on-field production.

Much like how the team needs a win to show real evidence of its improvement, it’s time for Massaquoi to start putting up some tangible numbers to reflect the progress that he is supposedly making. Being a good practice player is nice, but more players need to start producing on game day if the Browns are going to start winning.

In short, it’s time to start catching the ball.

Still Struggling for Reception

By establishing Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie as the starting receivers, the Browns are relying on two second-year wide receivers.

The problem with that is there is growing evidence that a majority of wide receivers don’t adjust to the speed of the game and fully understand how to read defenses and run routes until their third season.

In his book, Take Your Eye off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, Pat Kirwan, a senior analyst on and former coach and front office member, highlights what a receiver must do during a play:

“It’s on the post-snap read that a receiver gets the true indicator of what the defensive back is going to do. If the cornerback lines up 7 or 8 yards off the line of scrimmage and is aligned with the receiver’s outside shoulder, it might look like off and soft to the receiver. But the receiver can’t be sure until after the snap, when he’ll see the cornerback backpedal and reveal his deep coverage principles. The receiver then immediately must decide whether he’s going to run a post, a deep curl or something in front of the deep coverage. That decision will also depend on another factor – the drop his quarterback will be taking, something the receiver must always be aware of.”

Another area young receivers struggle with is getting release off the line of scrimmage. Kirwan explains:

“Some great college receivers can’t even get off the line of scrimmage in the NFL. They never faced big, strong cornerbacks, guys who are 6’0″, 200 pounds and can bench 400 pounds. Some great college receivers never even have a chance to think about reading coverages because they’re too busy trying to get out of their stance.”

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar gave still another example of the learning curve required of NFL wide receivers in an article in The Plain Dealer:

“Those passes down the sidelines that guys can’t catch and stay in bounds,” said Kosar. “If you watch them, you see that the receivers are 1-2 yards away from the sidelines as they run down field. That’s too close. They should be 5-6 yards. You want to give the quarterback about 15 feet to throw the ball between the receiver and the sidelines.”

On their training camp tour for Sirius NFL Radio, Kirwan and his on-air partner Tim Ryan talked about how the Browns receivers did not have the extra gear needed to get separation on a defensive back and give the quarterback an opportunity to drop the ball in. Without that speed, Massaquoi and Robiskie have to find other ways to get open, and that will only come with time.

The more you read about what it takes to be a successful NFL wide receiver, the more you realize what a big project this is for the team. And these examples are just the start; it’s not even taking into account how responsibilities change if you are the X, Y or Z receiver on a given play.

Of course, the Browns find themselves in this conundrum of their own doing. Because they did not have the proper people in place for the 2009 NFL Draft, they drafted two wide receivers in the same year, hoping they would be able to contribute sooner rather than later. By throwing in with Massaquoi and Robiskie, for better or worse the team has to live with the mistakes, limitations and growing pains.

There were calls during the preseason for the Browns to get a veteran player to be the No. 1 receiver. But there are a couple of problems with that. First, there are really only a handful of true No. 1 receivers in the league: Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. That’s pretty much it; everyone else is a notch (or further) behind that group.

So that leaves the team looking at two options, neither of which is very appealing:

  • Sign an older receiver on the downward part of his career – T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Terrell Owens for example. But having someone like that who is not a long-term solution would just slow the development of the young receivers even more.
  • Sign a problem player like Vincent Jackson. But if the Browns didn’t want to deal with Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow, why would they want to take a chance on someone who is only one more incident away from a year-long suspension?

Like most things, all this takes time and patience. The first Browns fans have; the second is continually being tested, but we haven’t hit the bottom of the well just yet.

These guys might finally be catching on

A few months ago, some were calling the Browns receivers the worst in the league. Athlon Sports gave the group a grade of D, ranks leading receiver Mohamed Massaquoi as the 58th best receiver in the league, and even the Madden football game gives them poor marks.

Now, as the team prepares for its second preseason game on Saturday against St. Louis, the perception is starting to slowly turn in the Browns’ favor.

Earlier this week, an article in Bleacher Report highlighted the progress shown by Brian Robiskie in the preseason opener against Green Bay:

“Robiskie … showed tremendous progression in year two and looked night and day better than last season,” Daniel Wolf wrote. “He showed crisp route running and was able to break free of coverage to find open spots on the field.

“Great hands allowed Robiskie to nearly get half of his total receptions (seven) in 2009 in this one preseason game with three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.

“The touchdown was the icing on the cake and really showed that Robiskie understands what he needs to do on the field after running his route and when a play breaks down.”

Bleacher Report followed that up by saying the receivers are beginning to prove the doubters wrong during the Green Bay game:

“Perhaps it was just a figment of preseason smoke and mirrors, but the Browns receivers sure looked better than a collective destined to relive the shop of horrors that was our passing attack last season,” J Gatskie wrote. “Whether it was second year receiver Brian Robiskie running the precise routes he was touted for at Ohio State and hauling in three passes—including a touchdown on a laser from new quarterback Seneca Wallace—or tight end Evan Moore picking up where he left off in 2009 with three catches and forcing his way on the field despite the free agent signings of two formidable tight ends, the receivers for the most part looked very good against Green Bay.

“Twelve separate Browns caught passes against the Packers. The Browns had multiple games where the team didn’t total even 12 completions last year.”

Sure it was only one game, and a preseason one at that, but contrast that game with the horror show of last season and things are slowly starting to look up in Brownstown.

If the Browns can just get a competent level of production out of their receiving group this season – we’re not talking Air Coryell, just consistency – think what that will do for their rushing game. They finished 8th in the league last year in rushing while featuring an historically pathetic passing attack.

With an improved passing game, mixed with an already quality running game, the team just might have a passing chance this year.

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