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Buckeyes escape vs Navy

We knew J.T. Barrett would have some growing pains after replacing the injured Braxton Miller, and some of that was on display as the Buckeyes opened the season again a scappy Navy squad and their annoying triple-option offense. Barrett threw an ill-advised INT in the red zone, and on one third and short ran the option very poorly as he pitched when he surely should have cut inside and run for an easy first down.

Still, Barrett flashed some of the attributes that had Buckeye coaches raving about him leading up to the opener. Well, maybe the word “flash” doesn’t apply to Barrett, but his performance indicated he can grow into the job.

That’s primarily because all the hype about Ohio State’s weapons on offense seems to be legitimate. Sure, there isn’t an established star like Carlos Hyde, but the Buckeyes can attack you with waves of talent. Guys like Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall will make defensive coordinators lose sleep at night, and all the of backs and wideouts look like legitimate threats as well. So as many have already pointed out, Barrett just needs to play his game and distribute the ball and he should be fine.

As for the defense, it’s hard to judge a team based on a game versus Navy as their offense offers a unique challenge. Virginia Tech isn’t really known for its offense but let’s see how the Buckeye D performs next week and we’ll start to see if the promised improvement takes shape.

So the Buckeyes avoided disaster in Baltimore and can start thinking about Virginia Tech.

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Get ready for Johnny Football packages

With Brian Hoyer named as the starter, the next question will be whether the Browns will have some packages ready to get Johnny Manziel on the field. Head coach Mike Pettine initially said no, but then he clarified that as the season progresses we might see special packages for Manziel.

This makes sense. Some national writers were questioning the decision, and there are plenty of arguments out there for never taking out your starting quarterback. One writer pointed out that Manziel isn’t the kind of runner that can bull his way to a first down or touchdown in short yardage.

Yet Manziel brings quickness and elusiveness, and that offers a real advantage in short yardage situations. Now the defense has to at least account for the possibility of the quarterback running, and a read-option formation offers all sorts of opportunities for misdirection. Any hesitation on the part of the defense can be the difference in getting a critical yard.

Also, this makes coordinators have to prepare for other packages, so I think offering this wrinkle from time to time makes a ton of sense for the Browns.

Lebron 2.0 era begins in Cleveland

Lebron James is coming home. Looking back now, the signs have been there for a long time that this is what he wanted, but that didn’t make the process any less dramatic, particularly in the last several days when panic started to set in for Cavs fans as James delayed his latest decision.

His letter in SI struck the perfect tone, and was much better than contrived public apologies from him and Dan Gilbert. Also, the context made this easier for me and some Cavs fans. Lebron had a mixed record in Miami despite winning two championships, and is leaving the team whose best days were clearly behind it.

I actually enjoyed the free agency process. I knew a return would be great for the Cavs, the city of Cleveland and Lebron, but I also wasn’t holding my breath. If Lebron made the wrong decision again, that was his problem, and the Cavs were set up with a young and talented team with Kyrie locked up for a long time.

But this time Lebron did make the right decision, and he did it with class. He’s created a path for himself that can now lead to a legacy he can be proud of.

Some national reporters are saying this morning that winning a championship in Cleveland isn’t important, but that’s just foolish. Things will get tough again if the Cavs falter, particularly if Lebron buckles when the pressure to win ramps up. But I don’t expect him to falter. Lebron has made it clear that winning at least one championship is critical, and he has embraced that challenge. It’s no longer a burden dumped on his shoulders – it’s mountain he has chosen to climb. That makes this decision even more impressive. Welcome home.

Can the Browns get the quarterback position right?

There are tons of good QB prospects in tonight’s draft, and frankly I don’t have a strong preference. I’d be happy with many of them – I just hope the Browns are able to land the one they really want.

That said, this photo illustrates the pathetic QB history of this franchise since its return in 1999. We need our luck to change . . .

Cheap Indians break off talks with Justin Masterson

Good grief. There’s every reason to e excited about the Cleveland Indians this year, as the young pitching staff has huge potential and they have a solid lineup. With Terry Francona at the helm and a higher budget for free agents, the Dolans finally decided to join the major leagues again and actually compete, as opposed to just acting as a minor league team for franchises who were serious about winning.

But these negotiations with Justin Masterson are a real buzz kill. Masterson offered the Indians a proposal for only 2-3 years with a reasonable salary given today’s market. Sure, the Indians have plenty of young pitching and can probably survive losing Masterson. But Masterson isn’t insisting on a ridiculous long-term deal. He gave the Indians a real option, and the should have come to terms with him.

Now they’ve given Tribe fans another reason to be skeptical, and we’ll have to hear more stories about payroll and attendence in a year when everyone should be excited about the team’s chances.

The Dolans came a long way last year in rebuilding some trust with the fans. I gave up my season tickets when they unloaded Cliff Lee for a song one year too early, and many other fans were finished with them after that abomination. Now they’re taking another step back when they should be celebrating a real contender.