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In Cleveland, hope dies last

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Trent Richardson to play Sunday – unless he doesn’t

Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson will suit up on Sunday against San Diego despite a painful injury to his ribs.

Unless he doesn’t, that is.

“I think what’s important is if he’s healthy to play, he plays,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday. “If they tell me he is at no risk to hurt if further then we’re playing ball. As I watch him in practice, just like we watched him in the game, if we feel like that’s something that we can and should do we’ll do it otherwise we’re getting ready to play.”

Read more…

Blame Homgrem or Shermen?

Welcome to Cleveland, John Hughes. Are you ready to start?

The Cleveland Browns better hope Hughes, the team’s third-round draft pick, is ready for his close-up because it looks like they will need him this fall after starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor injured a pectoral muscle while working out on Thursday.

Of course he did.

“We’re awaiting results of the MRI,” Peter Schaffer, Taylor’s agent, told The Plain Dealer. “He’s staying positive. He’s got a great attitude. He’ll either be 100 percent or come back 100 percent.

Obviously this is an indictment of the lax attitude installed in Berea by team president Mike Holmgren. Or the lack of preparation on coach Pat Shurmur’s part. Or a referendum on owner Randy Lerner’s lack of involvement. Or it could just be that injuries happen.

We’re pretty sure it’s one of those things.

Look, these things happen – just look at Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Tampa Bay’s Da’Quan Bowers, who both have suffered torn Achilles tendons.

As it turns out, it’s fortunate the Browns selected Hughes, even if the original plan was to have him provide depth as a rotational player. Now he’s going to need to step up and play big-boy minutes.

Let’s hope he’s up to the challenge.


While the Browns were once again bad against the rush last season, finishing 30th in the NFL giving up an average of 147.4 yards per game, turns out they were not historically bad.

Before the 2011 season, there were just 19 defenses in NFL history that gave up more than 5.0 yards per rush for an entire season. Last year, four teams gave up five yards or more each time the opposing team ran the ball – Oakland, Detroit, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.

As bad as the Browns were, they finished 19th in the league with an average of 4.4 yards per rush allowed.

Not sure what that means – after all, it’s not just how many yards you give up but when you give them up – but thought it was worth pointing out.


Major League Baseball is reportedly ready to make the ridiculous fake-to-third, throw-to-first pick off play that never works and is one of the things that makes baseball increasingly irritating.

According to The New York Times: The Playing Rules Committee has approved a proposal to make it a balk, with MLB executives and umpires in agreement. The players’ union vetoed the plan for this season to discuss it further. MLB is allowed to implement the change after a one-year wait — no telling whether that would happen if players strongly object. 

 Under the new wording, a pitcher could not fake to third unless he first stepped off the rubber. If he stayed on the rubber, it would be a balk.

Works for us.


Sunday is the end of the Premier League season and all 10 games will be shown live in some fashion on Fox’s family of networks and ESPN2.

FX’s live coverage of Sunderland’s match with Manchester United (who are tied for the top spot with Manchester City) will feature in-game highlights (shown in the corner of the screen) of all the goals scored in the other match’s of the day. (h/t EPL Talk)

(Photo by Getty Images)

Quick Saturday slants

After three preseason games, Phil Taylor continues to play like a No. 1 draft pick.

The highlight of Thursday night’s game against Philadelphia was Taylor’s 14-yard sack and forced fumble of quarterback Michael Vick. He also drew another holding penalty as the Eagles struggled at times to contain Taylor.

“I’ll tell you what, there were flashes of what you want from a defensive tackle in this league,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur told The Plain Dealer. “And then again, there were some areas in the game where he needed to be a little bit more explosive and consistent. But generally, I think he’s making steady progress, and so that’s good.”

Which is good, because we’ve certainly seen plenty of No. 1 picks put on a Browns uniform and act as if they’ve never played the game before.


We caught Vic Carucci, who writes for the Browns official website, on Sirius NFL Radio earlier today.

Carucci took a call from a Browns fan asking about the wide receivers this year. Carucci made a point to single out Brian Robiskie, saying the third-year receiver looked “impressive” against the Eagles.

We’re not sure we’d classify three catches for 23 yards as “impressive” – although those are the same numbers second-round pick Greg Little put up. And his pass interference penalty – wiping out a 43-yard reception – is further proof that Robiskie doesn’t have the speed necessary to gain separation against NFL secondaries.

As we head into another season wondering about the wide receivers, Carucci’s comments raise the question of whether he really believes that or if he was parroting the company line about Robiskie.

If it’s the latter, that makes it sound as if the Browns are willing to give Robiskie a chance this year to show what he can do in the West Coast offense.


Mike Sando at ranked the NFL teams based on the age of their current rosters, and its good news for the Browns, who are the 29th youngest team in the league.

The Browns are 26th youngest on defense and 28th youngest on offense as general manager Tom Heckert continues to rebuild the roster.

Hey, if you’re going to struggle, you may as well do it with younger players.


Finally, Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League table – at least for a day – with a 3-1 win over Bolton.

Charlie Adam continued to show why the club was willing to pay a $13 million transfer for him, putting a perfect cross off a corner kick to Martin Skrtel, who headed the ball home for the second goal.

A minute later Adam got on the board himself with a sweet left-footed goal, his first on the season.

The Reds have seven points after three games in their best start to a season since 1994.

(Photo by Reuters)

That’s a lot of beef

First-round draft pick Phil Taylor was finally on the practice field for the Browns on Thursday.

“I feel great just to be out there with the guys practicing and learning a new defense,” Taylor said in published reports. “I’ve played in the 4-3 my whole college career. So it’s not that hard.”

When Taylor (338 pounds) lines up next to Ahtyba Rubin (315 lbs.) at the tackle positions in the Browns new 4-3 defense, that’s a combined 653 lbs. waiting to rip into opposing quarterbacks.

“(We’re) two big, beefy guys in the middle just focused on stuffing (the) run and at the same time trying to get to the passer,” Rubin told The Beacon Journal. “I believe Phil’s a pretty good pass rusher, and we’ve just gotta wait and see what happens. I’m excited.”

“We can be a good tandem here,” Taylor told The Plain Dealer. “We can be real good. With this AFC North, there’s a lot of good teams who know how to run the ball. You’ve got to anchor down and stop the run.”

Somewhere in a dorm room in Latrobe, Pa., Ben Rothlisberger just soiled himself at the thought of that.


Sirius NFL Radio was at Browns training camp today, which is always a good time.

While we didn’t get to hear as much as we would have liked, we did catch the interview with rookie tight end Jordan Cameron.

Hosts Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan were very complimentary of Cameron, talking about his route running and ability to gain separation from his defender.

Because Ben Watson has been sidelined this week with a concussion, and Evan Moore was not eligible to practice until Thursday because of the new NFL labor rules, Cameron has been thrown into the mix.

While he’s certainly not going to be a starter on Opening Day, but those additional reps that he gained this week will only help down the road.


Team president Mike Holmgren was also on the show and talked about the squad’s running backs.

He said he’s confident the team will be able to run the ball with the trio of Peyton Hillis, Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty, but that the team also needs rookie fullback Owen Marecic to lead the way on the ground

Holmgren said he expects Marecic to be up to the challenge and he better be right. Letting Lawrence Vickers go in free agency was one of the biggest gambles the team made in the off-season, and if Marecic can’t blow up linebackers the ground game is not going anywhere.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Comings and goings at Browns camp

The Browns suffered their first “Cleveland” injury of training camp this week, losing punter Reggie Hodges for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

“He just reached up, and the snap was about head high,” coach Pat Shurmur said in published reports. “He did something he’s done a million times.”

Welcome to Cleveland, coach.

The team placed Hodges on injured reserve Wednesday and will now have to find someone to replace the talented punter.

While some may say, “it’s only a punter,” Hodges was a major asset to the team last season, with a gross average of 43.9 yards on 78 punts. His net of 39.0 was ninth in the league and his 29 punts inside the 20 were tied for eighth. He ranked third in the NFL with 15 punts downed inside the 10-yard line.

And we won’t soon forget his 68-yard run on a fake punt against New Orleans last season.

Those are all key numbers for a Browns team that is transitioning to the West Coast offense and a 4-3 defense. Playing the field position game is going to be important for this team as it figures things out in the first season under Shurmur.

Now that weapon is gone, at least for now.

“We’re gonna look for the best possible replacement that we can, and we’re gonna quickly address that,” Shurmur said in published reports. “We’ll have some guys in (today and) get a tryout going. We’ll have some guys in (today) and try to find the best possible guy that we can find at this time and keep hunting and searching for the guy that’s gonna be our punter.”

Turns out, that person is Richmond McGee, who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent. McGee has spent training camps with the Eagles (2008) and the Bears (2009-10). Last season, he had a brief stint on the Bears’ practice squad.


In happier news, first-round pick Phil Taylor finally came to terms on a four-year contract and will be at practice when the Browns take the field Thursday afternoon.

“We’re very happy that we were able to sign Phil and now have all eight draft picks under contract,” said GM Tom Heckert in a statement. “It was important to get him in here when we did, and I want to thank (agent) Peter Schaffer for all of his help in getting this deal done. It’s apparent that Phil kept himself in excellent shape since we drafted him and he told us he can’t wait to get started. ”

The team also signed former Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson as they try to build some depth in the secondary.

Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who coached the secondary in Philadelphia last season, and cornerback Sheldon Brown, a former Eagle, are familiar with Patterson. Bringing him in is no different than former coach Eric Mangini bringing in every ex-Jet short of Wahoo McDaniel the past two years.

Patterson has his detractors, with one writer at ESPN’s Grantland opining that “Patterson was a last resort at cornerback forced into action by injuries; teams avoided Asante Samuel and spent the second half throwing at the guy who the Philadelphia Inquirer politely noted ” … is better suited to special teams.”

If Patterson has to take on a starting role, the Browns are in trouble. But if he contributes on special teams and works his way onto the field as a dime back, things will probably be OK.


We’ve been wondering when and how the Browns planned to spend their available cap space, which at the start of the week stood at $30.4 million.

But it turns out, thankfully, they don’t have to be in a rush to throw money around, as the much talked about salary floor – requiring teams to spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap in cash on an annual basis – doesn’t kick in until 2013.

This season and next the league as whole must spend 99 percent of the salary cap in cash, with the league paying the difference if the 99 percent figure isn’t reached.

So don’t expert Heckert to loosen the purse strings much more this year.


Finally, here’s a depressing article about how the NFL Network is slowly killing NFL Films.

Be warned, though, the layout of the article is one of the most painful ones we’ve seen in a long time. But it’s worth the effort.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Browns get defensive with first pick

Well, we didn’t see that one coming.

General manager Tom Heckert put on his Eric Mangini mask and made multiple trades as the Browns bounced around the first round from No. 6 to No. 27 before finally settling at No. 21 and picking Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor.

The Browns also ended up with four additional draft picks after all the trading was done.

Heckert said leading up to the draft that there were two players the Browns were targeting and, if they were gone, the Browns would be open to a deal. That appeared to be the case, especially after the Cardinals got their revenge for Derek Anderson by taking LSU’s Patrick Peterson one pick before the Browns.

The Browns picked up five picks from Atlanta – the Falcons giving up their first-, second-, and fourth-round selections this year and first- and fourth-round picks in 2012 – so that Atlanta could take Alabama’s Julio Jones.

The Browns then gave KC the 27th overall pick acquired from Atlanta and the Browns’ third-round selection, No. 70 overall, to move up to 21 and pick Taylor.

So, was it all worth it?

Taylor will pair with Ahtyba Rubin in the Browns four-man front, hopefully building a large wall to bolster the run defense.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. wrote that Taylor “showed he can be a disruptive force along the interior of the defensive line. Taylor is a massive tackle who can throw around the center or guards like they’re rag dolls. He’s tremendously powerful and strong and is a great run-stuffing defensive tackle, showing excellent stoutness at the point of attack.

“In fact, Taylor is arguably the best pure nose tackle in this draft … an immovable object along the interior.”

“We really like Phil Taylor,” Heckert told The Plain Dealer. “We think with him and Rubin, we’re going to be tough inside.”He’s a big man who can push the pocket. If your guards or center are undersized, he’s going to run right over the top of them. That’s intriguing for us.”

The consensus seems to be that the Browns really took it to Atlanta with the trade, so they have that going for them.

Two years ago when the Browns moved around the first round they ended up walking away with Alex Mack, who’s the best center in the division. Hopefully they can come close with the selection of Taylor.

The Browns still have eight picks to make in this year’s draft as the team continues to rebuild and get younger. They have two picks in the second round – No. 37 & No. 59 – as well as picks 102, 124, 137, 168, 170 and 248.

And there is still more to come with the second round starting tonight. And plenty of players still available. Da’Quan Bowers anyone?

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