Attention Cleveland Juggalos, "Are you down with the Brown?" Big Money and K-Dubs the Soldier are here with their Cleveland sports insight.
Q) Vegas puts the Browns win total at 6.5. Would you take the over or the under? Are the playoffs possible?
Big Money- A more pragmatic individual might use the schedule to answer this question. However, a simple eye test leads to the conclusion that 4 wins would be a realistic goal for this collection of players. First and foremost this is a 4-12 team who wasted not 1 but 2 first round draft picks. Gilberts' success hinges on Prime Minister Goodale mandating the NFL goes to two-hand touch and Johnny is simply not an NFL player (no matter how many Snickers commercials he does). I don't see any reason for optimism and question the sanity of anyone who does.
K-Dubs the Soldier -- There is a reason why the Vegas Strip is flush with monuments to money: the bookmakers know what they are doing. When you look at the Browns schedule, an over/under win total of 6.5 is a tough number. After watching the debacle that was the Browns offseason and enduring the team’s display in the preseason, my gut reaction is that they would be lucky to win one game. When you get into the slate of games, though, you see the opportunity that the NFL’s balanced-schedule has presented. I would a lay a (modest) bet on the over. The Browns have home games against Oakland and Houston, as well as roadies versus the Titans, Bills, and Jaguars. Those are all winnable games for a team that was generally competitive throughout last year, although it registered a 4-12 record. I am throwing in a win against Tampa, too. On top of that, I do not see them going winless in the division. The Browns picked up wins against the Ravens and Bengals last year with barely any offense and a defense prone to untimely breakdowns. This year, while the offense is still a question mark, the running game should be vastly improved with the addition of Ben Tate at running back and upgrades on the right side of the O-line. Also, I expect the defense to be more consistent, particularly on third down because they have a defensive line that should be able to pressure the quarterback up the middle, while Kiki Mingo blitzes from the outside. Don’t bet the mortgage, but the Browns should win more than 6.5 games. That said, are the playoffs possible? Hell naw.
Q) Looking at the Browns schedule, what do you see as sure wins, sure losses and toss ups?
Big Money- In all honesty, it’s hard to look at this team and say with any confidence that any game they play against NFL competition is a sure win. I think all 3 divisional foes are considerably better than the Browns, as are most other teams on the schedule. I see the Bills game as the most winnable and I expect that this game may cement the Browns having the 1st and 2nd picks in the 2015 draft. I think Derek Carr and MJD will spur a slight Raider Resurgence thus moving that game into the “push” category. Outside of those 2 games, I think the Browns will be definitive underdogs for the other 14 weeks.
K-Dubs the Soldier – This is a clown question, bro. There is (currently) no such thing as a sure win as a Browns fan. While the balanced schedule gives some semblance of hope, all Browns fans know that hope is the foulest four-letter word in the English language. I’ll give you the sure losses: Pittsburgh and Baltimore times two; home against the Saints and Colts; and road games against Atlanta and Carolina. I think all other games are toss-ups, with the best chances of wins coming at home against Oakland, Tampa, Cincinnati, and Houston, and on the road at Tennessee, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and Buffalo.
Q) Opening at Pittsburgh certainly gets your attention. If we can’t get the victory, do we at least have a defensive player capable of inflicting harm on an important Steeler player the way they have done to us on a yearly basis?
Big Money- This question confused me, as the only “important” player the Browns have had on their roster since ’99 is Phil Dawson and he survived all Steelers games unscathed. If Mingo finds a way to add on to his Durant-esque frame within the next 6 days, he’ll be my pick.
K-Dubs the Soldier – Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, and Dante [W]hitner can light guys up. I also think that rookie linebacker Christian Kirksey is going put the hurt on a lot of dudes. The Steelers are always tough, though, and unless Josh Gordon gets the Pittsburgh backfield so high they forget to show up, I expect the full Steelers roster to endure on Sunday.
Q) Coming out of camp, what areas of the team do you see as a strength? Who looks good?
Big Money- I'm going to show my true colors as a card-carrying member of the “Hoyer’s Warriors,” but I truly think he looked like a competent NFL signal caller as it relates to controlling a huddle, making reads etc. I think the anti-Brian sentiment is media-driven as Johnny represents some sort of meal ticket for the those who make a living covering the Browns.
K-Dubs the Soldier – The defensive front seven has a lot of talent and depth. I still think the Browns have more of a 4-3 as opposed to 3-4 personnel, but that front seven is the strength of the entire team. The Browns have a consistent rotation of defenders that can plug up the running lanes, rush the passer, and make plays down field. Watch out for breakout seasons from Armonty Bryant, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and the rookie Kirksey. On the offensive end, I think the strength is the offensive line. They have a starting five that is both big and athletic. They should be able to protect the passer and open up some lanes for the running backs. I think their primary advantage is their ability to get out in front of the ball carriers and block downfield. Look for new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to get the ball to his playmakers out in space and allow guys like Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz, and Joel Bitonio to pave the way for them.
Q) What are your biggest concerns? How bad does losing Gordon hurt?
Big Money- My replies have painted a pretty bleak picture overall, but if I was to pinpoint my biggest concern it would be Pettine’s inexperience. I've been lenient on him regarding offense because he’s defense-oriented, but the defense has looked awful, specifically the secondary. He assured us that Gilbert was the right guy for his system but at this point he is a major liability and the lack of physicality outside of the hash-marks is going to be an ongoing issue. Losing Gordon is huge, but it could have been tempered by the drafting of a Latimer or Kelvin Benjamin. Farmer’s decision not to take a w.r. this May is a true headscratcher.
K-Dubs the Soldier – The loss of Gordon is huge, and the wide receiver position remains as big a question mark as the quarterback. The Browns have added a number-one running back in Ben Tate, as well as speedy wideout Andre Hawkins, and drafted scat-back Terrence West. All of these players, coupled with standout tight-end Jordan Cameron, should improve the team’s ability to move the chains. But none of these options can stretch the defense like Gordon. Without the threat of Gordon on the outside, teams may be able to crowd the line and force the Browns to play an east-west, rather than downhill, offensive game.
The defensive backfield also remains suspect. Despite being a Pro Bowler last season, cornerback Joe Haden was prone to getting beat for big plays last year, at critical times, as was counterpart Buster Skrine. And both of those guys have been hurt at the beginning of the season. The Browns first draft pick this year, Justin Gilbert, has looked overmatched all preseason, including against third-team Rams receivers, and free agents Whitner and Karlos Dansby have looked a step slow in coverage. In light of the NFL Rules Committee’s flag-footballization of the league, a few opposing quarterbacks may have career days this season.
Q) Hoyer v. Manziel. At this point does it matter?
Big Money- I've already outed myself as a staunch Hoyer supporter, but honestly it probably doesn’t matter. This is a very bad football team top to bottom and I fully expect them to be picking in the top 5 next year. So maybe a better question is Winston or Hundley?
K-Dubs the Soldier – No doubt it matters. I think the ultimate factor in whether the Browns can move the ball is whether they can stretch the D vertically. You will never confuse Hoyer for Brett Favre or Jeff Blake, but he throws a much better deep ball than Manziel. This preseason, Manziel has thrown lasers up to 15 yards downfield, but anything further than that is out of his range. Choosing between the two otherwise would be hard. One was on the sidelines rocking a cockeyed flatbrimmer, Bieber style. And that was Hoyer. Manziel, for his part, made the “making money” gesture after scoring a touchdown against the Rams practice squad to bring the Browns within two scores. Seriously, how do you root for either of those dudes?
Q) And finally, who is our coach again?
Big Money – Somehow we were able to procure the Defensive Coordinator of the heralded 2013 Bills Defense!!!! Honestly, Pettine seems like a good guy but this is a no-win situation. Johnny's Daddy and ole Pilot Flying J have a business history so I'm certain Jimmy's gonna be pulling strings from the owners box (which is always toxic). At this point I just have to consistently remind myself that Lebron is back.
K-Dubs the Soldier – Mike Pettine will be at the helm to start the 2015 season no matter what. There is no way a professional football team can have four new coaching staffs in four years and expect anything more than a 4-12 record. This team will have its ups and downs this year, probably more downs, but expect to have some of the H-word heading into next season.