The Braxton Miller Show

Image source: Ohio State Football Facebook page

That pretty much describes the Ohio State Buckeyes so far in 2012.

The special teams have been terrible. Last week they gave up a punt return for a touchdown. This week it was a pathetic blocked punt.

The defense has been disappointing. They’ve had their moments, and the unit has real potential, but we don’t see a dominating unit, at least not yet.

Meanwhile, on offense, the Buckeyes can’t seem to get much going until Miller start cutting a spinning his way to some incredible runs. His passing has improved, so now he’s a legitimate dual threat quarterback, but he excels when he’s running with the ball.

He doesn’t have quite the speed of a Denard Robinson, and he isn’t quite as strong as Terrelle Pryor, but as a runner Miller is just as good as both of them. He has the natural moves and cutting ability of an elite running back as he seems to effortlessly cut through defenses.

We’ll see if this Ohio State team can get better as they work their way through a mediocre Big Ten schedule, but so far they’re being carried by Braxton Miller.

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Trent Richardson powers new Browns offense

Image source: Browns Facebook page

The hysterical talk after the week one debacle was just too much. I couldn’t listen to local sports talk, as I knew some fans would be consumed by emotion as they labeled Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden busts after just one game. It wasn’t just Browns fans, as the experts on ESPN and other outlets were having a field day with Weeden’s anemic quarterback rating. It also affected the betting lines of course, as everyone follows the crowd even when they’re into sports betting over the Internet, when instead they should be looking for ways to go counter to the emotional masses. Yes, the Browns either pushed or barely covered against the Bengals last week, but so many people thought that the Browns were finished and that they had to think about starting Colt McCoy.

Of course, things were much different on Sunday in Cincinnati, but before we get to Weeden we have to address Trent Richardson, as he’s the engine that will drive this offense. TRich was obviously rusty in week one against a very tough Philly defense, but he exploded against the Bengals and showed us everything he showed in college. A stud like Richardson gives every offense hope, and now the Browns can build an attack around Richardson, while taking some pressure off of their rookie quarterback. Look at what Ray Rice did for Joe Flacco. The same thing can happen here, and now Browns fans gave much more reason for optimism.

But we also saw that Weeden can also be a real quarterback when Richardson is running well. He rebounded from his brutal debut to post excellent stats. But this goes far beyond stats. Weeden was making throws that only the elite quarterbacks can make, and it’s no surprise that the Colt McCoy cheerleaders were quiet after this game.

None of us know whether Weeden will develop into an elite quarterback. But we saw that the Browns are correct in handing him the offense, as he has the talent that can be developed.

Now let’s see how fast this duo can make progress. The Browns are 0-2, but they face a Bill team at home that’s very beatable. Hopefully they can take that next step.

Tough opening game for the Browns and the rookies on offense

Image source: Cleveland Browns Facebook Page

I’ve had season tickets to the Browns games since they returned to the NFL, and it’s been tough watching the product on the field. Usually we’re leaving early, and then late in the year we don’t bother going at all.

Expectations were definitely higher this year, as the rebuilding project has produced a young team with potential playmakers in Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon.

The Browns were 9.5 point underdogs, so in the grand scheme of things a close ballgame was a pleasant surprise. Frankly the stadium was rockin’ in the fourth quarter as the Browns had a chance to pull the upset. The fans were into it until the very end. Unfortunately, we ended up with another loss to open the season.

Here are some thoughts after stewing on it for several days:

– The offensive woes were very disappointing. I’m aware of all the challenges, with a rookie quarterback, a rookie running back who didn’t play a down in the preseason, a rookie wide receiver who hasn’t played in several years and a rookie right tackle. Perhaps we expected too much, but the results were just dismal. The stout Philly defense didn’t make things any easier to accept.

– Many in the media who broke down the game noticed that Trent Richardson was very rusty and didn’t look that explosive despite his awesome run where he crushed a Philly defender and separated him from his helmet. I won’t get too concerned here, as Richardson had zero game reps in preseason, so we should expect him to get much better as he gets into football shape and we start facing some weaker defenses.

– The lack of a running game really hurt, as Brandon Weeden had a brutal performance. Perhaps things would have been different if Greg Little and Owen Marecic would learn how to catch a football, but the end result was just ugly. Weeden just needs to play better, along with the line and the receivers. I’m ignoring all the fools on Twitter who want to bring up Colt McCoy after Weeden’s first game as a rookie, and that includes emotional Browns fans and hacks in the “media” who are desperate for Twitter responses and traffic to their websites. It’s an idiotic topic. Let’s see how Weeden looks after 5 games and then we can have a rational discussion on that topic.

– I was encouraged by some of the play calling, and I loved the double reverse to Travis Benjamin, but Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress need to find more plays apart from slants to make Weeden’s job easier, like bubble screens and other easy throws to get him in a groove. I liked seeing Trent Richardson split wide left on a couple of plays, but we didn’t see a quick pass out to him like we saw last night with Flacco and Rice in the Ravens game. Again, it was one game against a tough defense. We’ll know more about the offense and the play calling after 5 games.

– The defense was fantastic. Perhaps things would have been worse had Andy Reid realized he was allowed to run the ball, but the young defense harassed Micheal Vick all day and forced countless errors. Let’s hope we see much more of this. The young linebackers played extremely well, so I don’t want to see slow guys like Scott Fujita getting much playing time once he gets healthy. Still, the run defense didn’t look great.

– Pat Shurmur made some glaring game-management mistakes last year. I didn’t like them, but I felt he would get better in year two. We didn’t see any huge brain farts in game one, but I think he made a mistake not going for the 2-point conversion. The Browns were having trouble scoring, and the danger of an Eagles touchdown was far greater than two field goals, so adding one point to get to 16-10 gave him very little. Frankly, the pick six was such a surprise they had little time here, so that probably explains the decision as much as anything.

I’ve avoided talk radio in Cleveland this week for the simple reason that I don’t want to listen to emotional rants from unhinged hosts and callers. I don’t care to discuss who the next coach or GM might be if this continues, and I really don’t care to debate Jimmy Haslam’s first move when he takes over. It would be nice if most of the talk actually centered on football as opposed to all the drama, but that’s apparently too much too ask these days.

Let’s see where things stand after 5 games. Of course if the offense continues to look this bad, then those issues will not be avoidable. But the offense should get better as the young kids gain experience. They have talent, and hopefully they figure out how to exploit it.

Thoughts on Art Modell

I don’t have much to say about this. I’ve always been a huge Browns fan and I was a big supporter of Art Modell. He loved Cleveland and said he’d never move the team. Then he ripped out the heart of every Browns fan. It’s a permanent stain on his legacy and he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

Others have had much more to say. Here are links to some great articles from Jeff Passan and Joe Posnanski, who both grew up as Browns fans.

Mary Kay Cabot has a great article on how Modell’s decision haunted him for the rest of his life. I’m not surprised, and frankly he deserved that. But the article offers some interesting insight on how Modell was nudged and possibly pushed into this tragic decision by a nagging wife. It’s pathetic just thinking about it. Tony Grossi also offers great insight in his article about Modell’s passing.

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