Panic Regarding Browns Is Unfounded…For Now.

The Cleveland Browns have started 0-2 once again this year, and we think it is a reflex for the fans and media alike to start thinking another disastrous season is ahead for the team.

While it is a possibility that Hue Jackson ends the season with a 2-14 season, we still think that the 5-11 mark we expect is still very much in play.

We know the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns’ opponent in the home opener are the favorites to win the AFC North, and for all we know, the Baltimore Ravens could be a 10 win team as well.

That’s why you can’t overreact to things after just two weeks.

The next four games come against opponents which should give people an idea if the Browns have indeed improved from the 1-15 mark a year ago, and being widely regarded as the worst team in the NFL.

Next week, Cleveland visits Indianapolis to visit a Colts team that is without Andrew Luck and has the same record as Jackson’s squad at 0-2.

They will be starting Jacoby Brisset, making his fourth career start, a far cry from Super Bowl winners Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco.

The Colts lost to playoff contender Arizona in overtime on Sunday, but were hammered by the Rams in week one.  Let’s just say the Browns’ foes are in a higher class than those teams.

Then come home games against Cincinnati and the New York Jets, both sitting at 0-2, the same as Cleveland.

The Bengals have already replaced their offensive coordinator, and have looked dreadful against the Ravens and Texans.

Meanwhile, the Jets are copying what Sashi Brown did a year ago, jettisoning many older players and collecting draft picks, probably in an effort to take a shot at the possible franchise quarterbacks coming out in the 2018 NFL Draft.

They are starting Josh McCown at QB, and their losses have been against another rebuilding team in Buffalo, and a pummeling by the Raiders.

Then comes another road game at Houston (1-1), a team whose win is against Cincinnati and they lost to another team that usually drafts in the top ten, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

These four opponents are more in the Browns’ “weight class” than the mighty Steelers and the perennial playoff contender Ravens.

This isn’t to say the Browns will win all four games, or even two of them, but they have a better shot at victories against this quartet than they did in the first two games.

And remember that Cleveland is starting a rookie quarterback, and it would be more the norm than not to expect up and down performances from a player just entering the league.

However, we would still like to see a more simplistic approach from the coaching staff.  We would like to see more of an emphasis on the ground game using an offensive line that the front office spent a boatload of money on.

For all we know right now, the Steelers and the Ravens could be two of the three or four best teams in the AFC.  If you can’t get some victories against the next four teams, then there will be reason for panic and concern.

Right now, Browns fans just need to relax just a little bit.





Puzzling Decisions By Browns In Loss

The young Cleveland Browns went on the road for the first time this season, and their inexperienced showed in a 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at M & T Bank Stadium.

Cleveland is now 0-2 on the season.

If a team turns the ball over five times in a game, lose the turnover battle 5-2, get outgained on the ground, and lose the time of possession battle, that’s a pretty good recipe to come out on the short end of the scoreboard, and that’s what Hue Jackson’s team did today.

Considering all the turnovers, the defense didn’t perform terribly.  Joe Flacco completed 25 passes, but only gained 217 yards on those throws, and most of those yards came on tosses to the running backs and tight ends.

The only negative was just two sacks of Flacco (one each by Christian Kirksey and James Burgess).  That’s just three on the year, and we would guess that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams longs for the return of rookie Myles Garrett.

Offensively, there are a lot of question marks.

Going into the season, we believed Jackson needed to take pressure off his rookie QB DeShone Kizer, and today, he did just the opposite.

Kizer missed much of the first half with a migraine, but he and Kevin Hogan put the ball in the air 42 times, and it seemed like the coach abandoned the ground game with ten minutes to go in the third quarter, down two touchdowns.

At that point, there was plenty of time to keep running more.

Outside of Kizer’s scrambles, the Browns ran two running plays after that point, one a draw by Duke Johnson (that gained 16 yards) and the other being an ill advised option play on 1st and goal at the Baltimore 2 yard line.

Instead of giving the ball at least twice to Isaiah Crowell, they ran the play by Kizer, which lost yardage, and then threw two passes, the second of which resulted in an interception.

Crowell ran just 10 times today for 37 yards with a long of 17.  We still feel Crowell should get the majority of his carries between the tackles.

We also think the Browns have some players who can make plays on offense, but to date, they have had problems identifying them.

Johnson had just seven touches, gaining 80 yards.  Why isn’t he getting the ball more often?  TE Seth DeValve caught two balls today for 61 yards, he has six catches in the two games.

We don’t believe Crowell was targeted on any throws out of the backfield, so he had just ten touches.

Unbelievably, the leading receiver today was WR Rashard Higgins, who was on the practice squad until yesterday.  He caught seven passes for 95 yards.

Meanwhile, Corey Coleman caught one pass.

Look, we aren’t saying Jackson is a bad coach, and needs to be fired.  Frankly, that’s the last thing this organization needs.

But, he does need to protect his rookie quarterback better, and he needs to identify who should his feature guys and get them the ball.

Crowell fell just short of 1000 yards a year ago, and still seems to be an afterthought in this offense.

Special teams continue to be a problem as well. Penalties seem to be a norm with this unit, and twice Jabril Peppers downed kickoffs in the end zone, when he was only about two or three yards deep in the end zone.

He can be a playmaker too, and it seems like he is reluctant to try to take a chance.

There was simply a lot of things to shake your head in wonderment in today’s loss.


Best Tribe Era Ever: 1994–???

The first baseball year we can remember is 1965.  As a lifelong Clevelander, our dad was a fan of the Indians, and we have never changed allegiances.

It wasn’t easy to stay loyal.

In that ’65 season, the Tribe finished 81-81 in fifth place in the ten team American League.  Little did we know that was kind of the norm for the first 29 years we followed the Cleveland Indians.

1968 was the year of the pitcher, and it was also the best finish by Cleveland between the time we started being aware of the team and when they moved into Jacobs Field in 1994.

The Tribe went 86-75 in the last season of the true pennant race, when you won your league and went to the World Series, or you went home.

Even then, Cleveland finished 16-1/2 games behind the Tigers, so they weren’t really in contention.

The closest to being in the race we experienced was 1974, when the Indians were in first place as late as July 12th, and were just two games out on August 6th.

However, they went 20-35 the rest of the way and finished 4th, 14 games out of first.

The Indians had good players, guys like Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Buddy Bell, Ray Fosse, Bert Blyleven, Graig Nettles, and Chris Chambliss, but of the franchise’s top 20 players of all time in WAR, only McDowell played in Cleveland between 1965 and 1990.

Remember, the franchise played in three World Series in its history from 1901 through 1994.

Since the move out of old Municipal Stadium, everything has changed.  First, the Tribe has appeared in three World Series in the last 22 seasons.

We’ve seen great players, such as Jim Thome, who likely will be the first Cleveland player who spent the majority of his career as an Indian to be elected to the Hall of Fame since Lou Boudreau in 1971.

Other great talents wearing a Tribe uniform in that time frame are Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Omar Vizquel, and Kenny Lofton, and it continues today to Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, and Corey Kluber.

We have already said if Lindor plays the majority of his career in Cleveland, he will be regarded as the best player ever to where an Indians uniform, and Kluber may rank behind just Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Bob Lemon as the best starting pitchers in the Tribe history.

There were no players of that caliber when we watched the Indians growing up.

Since 1995, we have seen ten teams (including this year) that will advance to the playoffs.  We understand baseball is different now, they split to two divisions after expansion in 1969, and to three divisions in ’94.

And while just two teams made the post-season before ’69, now ten teams in the majors advance.  However, outside of the major market behemoths in Boston and New York, the Cleveland Indians have made the post-season more often than any other American League team since 1994.

That’s a tribute to the organization and it’s really incredible considering that from 2002 to 2012, a period of 11 years, they made the playoffs just once.

So, to older fans, these are the glory days for the Cleveland Indians.  Great players, very good teams, excellent organization.

There is only one thing missing…eliminating the shadow of 1948, currently the longest World Championship drought in the game.



The Tribe’s Remarkable Streak Carries Remarkable Numbers.

By now, we think everyone knows that the Cleveland Indians are on a 19 game winning streak, and tonight they will attempt to tie the American League record of 20 straight wins, set by the Oakland A’s in 2002.

Those are the A’s portrayed in the movie “Moneyball”.

There are a lot of remarkable numbers and statistics that go along with the streak, but in our opinion, the one that stands out is that the Tribe has allowed just 32 runs during the 19 victories, and six of those came in the first win, against Boston.

That means over the next 18 contests, opponents have scored just 26 runs, an average of only 1.4 per game.

No matter what kind of team you have, you will win a lot of games if you only have to get two runs to win.

However, Terry Francona’s crew has scored more than two runs per game, they have scored 132 runs during the streak, averaging 6.9 runs per game.

That also computes to a run differential of 100 runs in these games.  With the Indians leading the AL in that category, the second place team is the Yankees, and they have scored 152 more runs than their opponents…for the entire season.

At the All Star break, it seemed impossible that the Tribe could get the best record in the AL and thus have home field advantage in the league playoffs, but right now, they have that distinction right now, although there is still three weeks on the schedule.

Even with that record, according to their run differential on the season, Cleveland is below where they should be record wise, their real mark being 88-56, while their Pythagorean win/loss is 94-50.

More numbers that boggle your mind.  The Indians’ pitching staff have six shutouts in the 19 games.  They have only one three one-run games, while only two others have been decided by two runs.

This means there have only been five close games in the bunch.

By contrast, Francona’s squad has won four games by 10 or more runs, and in total have emerged victorious by five or more runs in eight contests.

Eleven of the wins came on the road, meaning eight have come at home.  They had an overall scoreless streak of 30 innings, starting in game one vs. Boston, and ended by Corey Kluber, of all people.

They carried a 37 inning scoreless skein at Progressive Field, which just ended last Saturday afternoon against the Orioles.

Mike Clevinger has not allowed a run during the streak, making three starts, and pitching six scoreless innings in each of them.

Trevor Bauer has four wins, Kluber and Clevinger have won three, while Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Ryan Merritt have two victories.

Cleveland’s magic number was 33 before they stopped losing, and it is now six.  There is a real possibility the Indians could have a champagne celebration before they leave town on Sunday night.

Perhaps the craziest thing is that Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Andrew Miller haven’t made an appearance on the field during this span.  That speaks to the depth the front office has accumulated this season.

Because of the streak, Jay Bruce has been on the roster for 33 games, and the Indians are 28-5.

It’s a remarkable run for this baseball team, and it keeps on going.  After a season with mixed results for four months, the Tribe is the talk of baseball right now.





Plenty Of Good Coming Out Of Browns’ Loss

Although we are encouraged about what the Cleveland Browns are doing, we would have been pleasantly surprised had Hue Jackson’s squad won the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Our expectations were reinforced with today’s 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh at First Energy Stadium.

The young Browns (and yes, that will be a theme for this season) acquitted themselves quite nicely for the most part, and it appears that there will be plenty for the coaching staff to build on throughout the 2017 season.

Offensively, rookie QB DeShone Kizer played well, completing 20 of 30 throws for 222 yards and his first NFL touchdown and his first NFL TD pass, a three yarder to second year wide out Corey Coleman.

The Browns didn’t force Kizer to throw 40 times, although he was sacked seven times, many of those as a result of the rook not knowing to throw the ball away.

Isaiah Crowell ran 17 times for only 33 yards and another rookie, Matthew Dayes carried three times, so Jackson did try to stay with the run.

Coleman, last year’s first round pick, caught five balls for 53 yards and another second year guy, TE Seth DeValve caught four passes.

Our criticism on the offense was too many empty backfield sets for Kizer, thus the Steelers knowing he was going to pass.  And those sets didn’t have much success either.

Also, it appeared Cleveland had success running the ball up the middle with Crowell, but they didn’t seem to stick with that.

Veteran free agent Kenny Britt also dropped a wide open throw for Cleveland.

Defensively, stopping the run wasn’t a problem for Gregg Williams in his debut as defensive coordinator here, Pittsburgh got just 35 yards on the ground.

The problem was stopping WR Antonio Brown, who caught 11 passes for 182 yards, and was the recipient of a pass interference call which set up the Steelers last touchdown.

Carl Nassib (2nd year pro) had a sack, and another player picked in the ’16 Draft, Derrick Kindred had an interception.

And another second year player, LB Joe Schobert, had four tackles, five assists, and deflected a pass.

It did seem Williams decided that without first overall pick, Myles Garrett, he decided to play coverage against Ben Roethlisberger, instead of trying to put pressure on him.

We are anxious to see if he changes next week.

The thing that stuck with us was the swarming nature of the Cleveland defense.  It seemed that whenever a Steeler was tackled, there were five or six other Browns around the play.

Now, about special teams.  We have wondered why coach Chris Tabor has survived several regimes, and we continue today.  The first punt of the year was blocked for a touchdown.

There have been many  special teams breakdowns over the past few seasons, and the first one in 2017 was costly.

On the positive side, Jabrill Peppers had a 25 yard punt return, and P Britton Colquitt pinned Pittsburgh inside the 20 for most of the first half.

The officiating was bad today as well.  There were several questionable calls against the Steelers today (notably a pass interference called on David Njoku) and the league needs to change the penalty for that violation.

On the PI call which benefited Pittsburgh, Brown was grabbing Jamar Taylor as much as Taylor was grabbing him.  To give a team 30+ yards due to something like this is ridiculous.

Next week, Cleveland travels to Baltimore, who shutout the Bengals today.  We will see if the progress shown today is something to be very encouraged about.




Five Wins Would Be Real Progress For Browns.

The Cleveland Browns open their 2017 season Sunday afternoon at First Energy Stadium against their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hue Jackson’s crew is coming off a 1-15 season, so hopes aren’t exactly high for a playoff spot, the first since 2002 for the brown and orange.

To some fans and people in the media, anything short of a post-season berth will be considered a failure, but we feel this will be a successful season, even without extra games, that is if the Browns, the youngest team in the NFL, start showing progress, and start to develop some star players.

First of all, the organization is seeing if they indeed have a young quarterback they can develop.  Second round pick DeShone Kizer will be the youngest starter in the league this fall, and here’s hoping Jackson can bring him along slowly by running the ball and playing defense.

Gregg Williams may be the most important free agent signing of the off-season, coming to Cleveland to be the defensive coordinator.  Williams has directed six top ten defenses (in terms of yards allowed) in 15 seasons heading up a defense.

He has brought an attacking style to the unit, and he has some potentially very good youngsters to work with, players like first overall pick Myles Garrett (who may not play in the opener), Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins, and first round pick Jabrill Peppers.

The defense should be able to keep Cleveland in games this season, and that will ease the burden on Kizer, so he will not have to put the ball in the air 40+ times in many games.

Isaiah Crowell is another who should help in this regard.  Crowell fell just short of 1,000 yards a year ago, and with an improved offensive line, bolstered  by free agent signees Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter.

We should learn about progress from last year’s draft class, which many considered a bust at various times during last season.

The following players drafted in 2016 are considered starters this season:  WR Corey Coleman, RT Shon Coleman, Ogbah, MLB Joe Schobert, and S Derrick Kindred.

Add Garrett, Peppers, Kizer, and K Zane Gonzalez to that quintet, and you have nine starters obtained in the last two drafts.

And that doesn’t take into account Peppers impact in the return game, another factor that should help an inexperienced passer.

We also expect TE Seth DeValve, WR Ricardo Louis, and DE Carl Nassib, three more players drafted in ’16 to get considerable playing time and make impacts.

If the Browns can get to five wins with these young players as central figures, the people hammering last year’s draft choices will have a lot of crow to eat.

The front office is still getting a lot of criticism from around the league, and we believe this is because they aren’t traditional “football guys”, and they are doing things a little differently.

For example, we’ve heard them getting toasted for making the trade for Brock Osweiler and a second round pick, the most important thing in the deal, because of the cap hit they are taking.

Then you realize the Browns are still over $60 million under that cap.

The key word for this Browns’ season is progress.  Progress in the win column, and progress of the players drafted a year ago.

The 2017 campaign could be the beginning of the rebirth of a franchise that has been down for many, many years.



Tribe Improving As Season Goes On

The Cleveland Indians have entered the home stretch of the Major League Baseball schedule, and are getting better as the season continues.

If you read the blog on a regular basis, we like to break down the schedule in 27 games increments, representing 1/6th of the season.

To date, the Tribe’s records in these sections are as follows:

First 27 games:  15-12
Games 28-54:     13-14
Games 55-81:     16-11
Games 82-108:   15-12
Games 109-135: 20-7

As is the norm, Terry Francona’s teams seem to get better as the season rolls on.  Remember in 2013, Tito’s first season in Cleveland when the team went 21-6 in September to earn a berth in the wild card game?

In 2014, the Indians were below .500 after 81 games, but went 46-35 in the second half and were in the playoff race until the final weekend of the season.

A year later, Cleveland was again below .500 in the first half (38-43), but again went 43-37 in the second half after restructuring the roster by trading Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, and bringing up top prospect Francisco Lindor.

Last year, was an anomaly, as the Tribe went 49-32 in the first 81 games, and “slipped” to 45-35 in the last 81, but the season culminated in a classic World Series, losing in extra innings in Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs.

This season, the Indians have done well in each 27 game split, the worst record in that span being a game under the break even mark.

However, in the last third of the 2017 campaign, Francona’s crew has gone into hyper drive, going 20-7, and currently riding a 12 game winning streak.

Last season’s club record 14 game span without a loss is in jeopardy.  The previous record of 13 consecutive wins was set in 1951, lasting 55 seasons.  The new record might be erased in one year.

The last team to have winning streaks of 12 or more games in back-to-back seasons were the 1970-71 Baltimore Orioles, teams which both reached the World Series, part of three straight berths in the Fall Classic (1969-71).

Offensively, the Tribe has been led by their pair of under 25 year old stars, INF Jose Ramirez and Lindor.

If you want reasons to feel good about the future of this organization, you can point to the two best position players being 24 (Ramirez) and 23 (Lindor).

The former leads the American League in extra base hits, while the latter just set a club record for home runs by a shortstop with 26 dingers.

And with injuries to stalwarts Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall, Francona received contributions from young players like Yandy Diaz and Gio Urshela.

Veteran Austin Jackson, who we didn’t want to make the club out of spring training, has also been huge, hitting .318 with an 875 OPS.

As much as the offense has produced, the hot streak has been keyed by the starting pitching.  Corey Kluber is having a season that could earn him his second Cy Young Award, despite missing several weeks with a sore back.

Danny Salazar has been in and out of the rotation, but Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger have picked up the slack.  Bauer is tied for the league lead in wins, and Clevinger is 8-5 with a 3.50 ERA.

And we haven’t mentioned the steady Carlos Carrasco, who is 13-6 with a 3.67 ERA and should reach the 200 strikeout mark on the year.

The Tribe is finishing the season strong.  And when they get Andrew Miller back, assuming he will be healthy, they may get even stronger.




Browns Continue To Get Younger

The Cleveland Browns cut down to 53 players today, although our guess is that the final roster will won’t be finished for several days.

A common theme since the beginning of last year has been youth.  If your name is not Joe Thomas, and you are over 30 years old, it is very difficult to make this roster.

After the end of last season, we speculated that Desmond Bryant and John Greco might have difficulty being with the team in 2017, and we wound up being correct.  Neither are still wearing brown and orange.

Besides Thomas, only two players have reached their 30th birthday, and one of them is the punter, Britton Colquitt.  Only CB Jason McCourty escaped the wrath of the organization’s obsession with Father Time.

Not that we disagree with what Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Andrew Berry have done.  They took over a football organization that made one playoff appearance since returning to the NFL in 1999, and never really tried to build through the draft.

From the first year Cleveland returned, they had players like Jerry Ball, Lomas Brown, and John Jurkevic on the roster.

The second and third year, they didn’t have many players over 30 on the roster, and they got to 7-9 in the third year (2001), and made the playoffs in 2002 at 9-7.

After making the playoffs, it seemed like that became the goal, and the organization started adding veterans every year, mostly guys nearing the end of their careers, players like Orpheus Roye, Ross Verba, Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Joe Andruzzi, Kenard Lang, etc.

Combined with not drafting well, and you can see why the franchise was floundering.

Brown and DePodesta stopped the madness, although many veteran football media people couldn’t see what they were doing.

Outside of Thomas, they unloaded veteran players who were no longer improving.  The only holdover was Thomas, a future Hall of Famer for sure.  And Thomas had to buy into the process, otherwise he would have asked out.

As of right now, 42 of the 53 players on the roster were brought in the past two years, and that doesn’t count players like Christian Kirksey, Joel Bitonio, and Danny Shelton, who are still young guys, but were drafted by Ray Farmer.

The new regime needs to has success, for sure.  We aren’t saying that Brown and DePodesta did the right thing after going 1-15 a year ago.

However, we do feel the team is going in the right direction, and fans shouldn’t be discouraged if the Browns go 4-12 or 5-11 this season.

Why?  Because they will be doing it with a very, very young roster that should continue to improve over the next three or four seasons.

And because the front office seems to be drafting better.  Knock on wood, but it looks like both first round picks, Myles Garrett and Jabril Peppers, can be impact players.

Last year’s choices look to be improved too.  Emmanuel Ogbah, Corey Coleman, Shon Coleman, Derrick Kindred, Joe Schobert, and Seth DeValve look like contributors.

The scouting department has found solid players like Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Tyrone Holmes, and Dan Vitale off the waiver wire.

Whether success comes in the next few years or not, what the Browns are doing is the right thing to do.

We have said it many times, the only thing worse than being a bad team is being a bad, old team.

The Cleveland Browns definitely cannot be considered the latter.





Tribe Gets Through August Challenge With Flying Colors.

The Cleveland Indians entered the month of August facing a stern test.

The schedule was full of post-season contenders, with home and home series with the Red Sox and Yankees, an 11 game trip to Tampa, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, and a couple of game vs. Colorado.

They started the month 10 games over .500, and they ended it 20 over the break even mark thanks to a 19-9 month.

What is more remarkable is Terry Francona’s squad had several important players missing time with injuries.

Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Andrew Miller all missed most of this important stretch of games with injuries.  And yet, the Tribe rolled on.

They did it first and foremost with incredible pitching, mostly from the starting rotation.

After allowing 12 runs to the Red Sox on August 1st, in what should be the Major League Baseball game of the year, gave up more than four runs in a game just five times the rest of the month.

Three of those games came consecutively in home series vs. Boston, and Cleveland won the last of those games, a 13-6 win over Sox ace Chris Sale, a day after the Tribe went through a two game stretch where the offense couldn’t buy a hit.

The staff had a streak of 30 straight scoreless innings, which ironically ended with ace Corey Kluber on the mound.

Despite all the injuries, the offense pitched in too, scoring five or more runs in half of the 28 games.

The hitting was revitalized with the addition of Jay Bruce, acquired from the Mets.  Upon arrival, Bruce hit in his first 11 starts, contributing four home runs and 13 runs batted in.

The injuries to Brantley and Chisenhall necessitated the deal, and give the front office and ownership a gold star for seeing the club needed a boost.

Depth in the farm system paid dividends with Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzalez, and Yandy Diaz contributing to the Indians’ success.

Among the position players, these are the standouts–

Carlos Santana:  997 OPS, 7 HR, 15 RBI
Edwin Encarnacion:  Batted just .220 for the month, but belted 10 homers
Francisco Lindor:  9 HR, 17 RBI
Diaz:  8 for 20, 5 RBI

Pitching wise, there are more exceptional statistics–

Kluber:  5-1, 1.96 ERA, .146 batting average against
Trevor Bauer:  5-0, 2.31 ERA, 44 strikeouts in 39 innings
Ryan Merritt:  2-0, 1.15 ERA
Joe Smith:  9 appearances, 8 of them scoreless
Tyler Olson:  8-2/3 scoreless innings

What does this period of great play mean for Francona’s club?

When Brantley, Chisenhall, and Kipnis come back, it could be a lethal batting order, one that has Chisenhall and maybe Santana hitting as low as seven and eight in the lineup.

It also buys more time for Miller to rest his knee.  It wouldn’t bother me if the lefty wasn’t held out until September 15th, giving him two weeks to get ready for what seems like an inevitable post-season berth.

Same with Brantley.  He hasn’t started baseball activities yet, but as long as he can get two weeks of play under his belt, he should be ready for the playoffs.

Will this mean another World Series berth for the Indians?  We can’t say that, baseball is not that kind of sport.  However, as usual, a Terry Francona led team is playing better ball in the second half of the season.

They passed their toughest test of the season with ease, and the magic number (right now 24) countdown can start right now.





Really, Kizer Was The Only Choice

DeShone Kizer was named the Browns’ starting quarterback for the season opener against Pittsburgh by coach Hue Jackson, and it really wasn’t up for debate.

The rookie from Notre Dame hit just 6 of 18 passes for 93 yards and an interception, but he was hurt by some dropped passes and a fumble inside the Tampa Bay 20 yard line by Duke Johnson.

Otherwise, he would have put more points on the board and his statistics would’ve looked better.

When it comes down to it, Jackson didn’t have much of a choice.

Training camp started with Cody Kessler as the starter, but the second year man out of USC seems to refuse to do what the coaching staff wants, which is throw the ball downfield occasionally.

He has completed 66.7% of his 27 passes, but only for 145 yards.  His 5.4 yards isn’t what Jackson wants out of his QB.  Remember, Kessler was benched at halftime in a game the Browns were leading a year ago, because he checked down way too much.

Next, Osweiler had the starting job, but he didn’t put up any points in his time on the field, and if you think 5.4 yards per pass is poor, the former Bronco and Texan signal caller’s three yards per pass makes Kessler look like John Elway.

We truly believe that Jackson didn’t want to start his rookie second round pick in the opener, particularly because it is against the Steelers, but given the performance of the two guys he tried to give the gig to, he didn’t really have a choice.

Kizer is hitting just 51% of his throws, a low total in today’s NFL, but his average yards per pass attempt is 7.2, the best of the four passers on the roster.

One thing you have to remember is the team knows who is the quarterback best equipped to lead them, and if Jackson were to start someone else, he loses credibility in his own locker room.

Our hope is that Jackson doesn’t put the burden of the offense on Kizer.  If the Browns are going into games planning to throw the ball 35 times, we can sense a disaster.

Rather, do what the Seahawks did with Russell Wilson as a rookie, do what the Steelers did with Ben Roethlisberger as a first year player.  Ease the weight on their shoulders.

Run the ball, play defense, and make it as easy as possible for them to play the most difficult position in professional sports.

As for who backs up Kizer, that’s another quandary for Jackson.

We expect to see a lot of Kevin Hogan on Thursday night against Chicago, because amazingly, he has performed better than both Osweiler and Kessler in the preseason games.

We are sure the coaching staff would like to see him against some second team players instead of guys who will not make teams once the rosters have to be cut to 53 players.

We firmly believe Jackson’s intention was to bring DeShone Kizer along slowly, but the mediocre performance of the more experienced passers forced his hand.

Hopefully, Kizer joins the rookie quarterback success stories rather than the players who were thrown to the wolves early and got devoured.