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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.

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Weeden and Browns make their debut in Detroit

After a long and eventful offseason, the Browns finally took the field last night in Detroit for their first exhibition game. Here are some first impressions.

- Brandon Weeden came out firing and hit a couple of beautiful throws. He clearly looks like an NFL quarterback. Then he went on to make some typical rookie mistakes and finished with a pedestrian stat line. He threw one ball that should have been intercepted and another that was intercepted. The key for Weeden will be how he learns from mistakes so we have a long way to go in figuring out how successful he will be in the NFL. I love the kid’s demeanor, however. He doesn’t hang his head and he seems to thrive on the challenges in front of him. He offers a refreshing contrast to Colt McCoy who often looks like he’s sulking on the sidelines.

- Travis Benjamin and Jordan Cameron stood out as potential weapons for Weeden. Benjamin flashed his speed and quickness and had no trouble catching the ball. Many have assumed that he’ll just be a slot receiver due to his size, but Benjamin showed he can play on the outside as well as he blew past a defender to catch a long pass from Weeden up the sideline. Cameron also showed his athleticism. He’s big and fast moved easily in space. Let’s hope his back injury isn’t serious. He was smiling as he left the field so it didn’t look too bad.

- I feel terrible for Mohamed Massaquoi. I saw him in camp last week and he looked great, and most camp observers thought he was back from his injuries and could help the receiving corps. But he got hit in the head on his first play of the game and suffered another concussion. Now his career may be in jeopardy.

- There will be a steep learning curve for some of the rookies. Mitchell Schwartz had a tough night at right tackle. He’s been having trouble in camp with Jabaal Sheard and then had trouble last night with the pass rush as well. He’ll have to develop quickly for the Browns as they don’t really have a viable option behind him. Oniel Cousins had looked good in camp but he looked terrible last night playing left tackle with the second team, so the Browns have to hope that Schwartz can win the right tackle job.

- Josh Gordon also had an inauspicious debut. Bernie Kosar pointed out that Gordon needs a lot of work in running routes, which isn’t unusual for rookie receivers. But we saw Travis Benjamin look like a veteran last night, so Gordon needs to step it up. He’s been out of football however and it shows.

- Montario Hardesty looked solid subbing for Trent Richardson as did the other running backs. The Browns should be able to establish a running game this season assuming Richardson’s injury heals as expected, and Hardesty gives them a solid one-two punch.

- I like what I saw of Brad Smelley. He’s not a devastating blocker, but he’s a real receiving threat out of the backfield. Owen Marecic has to show something in order to keep is job.

- The run defense looked terrible last night, but keep in mind that Ahtyba Rubin didn’t play. I watched the d-line closely and the tackles looked much better when Billy Winn and John Hughes were in there. There’s legitimate concern with the injury to Phil Taylor, but if these two rookies develop the line has a chance to be decent.

- They weren’t in there long, but Joe Haden and T.J. Ward looked fantastic last night, which makes the rumored suspension of Haden even that much more disappointing. But from a talent level the secondary has serious upside. Unfortunately, Dimitri Patterson left the game last night with an injury. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

- Colt McCoy had a nice night as he was able to move the ball with his feet and he made some nice throws. But we also saw some of the typical dumpoffs on third down. Overall I like him as one of the backups if the Browns decide to keep him, and frankly I’d be comfortable with Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Gibson as well. Gibson looked good in garbage time as he drove the Browns to victory in the fourth quarter.

Overall, it was a sloppy game. There were plenty of hysterical reactions on Twitter, most notably from certain radio talk show hosts that were probably off their meds again. But I like the potential of this team and the young players, and I’m anxious to see what they look like when Trent Richardson rejoins the lineup.

Pat Shurmur names Brandon Weeden as the starter at QB

It was just a matter of time of course, but Pat Shurmur made it official today. Brandon Weeden will be the starting quarterback.

Weeden has looked very good in camp, though he’s obviously a rookie and he’s going to make his share of mistakes. But his big arm and his willingness to look downfield makes him a huge upgrade over Colt McCoy.

Speaking of Colt, he wasn’t very happy, and he made some smartass remarks about expecting a real competition and the fact that he took no reps with the first-team offense. But he would have gotten reps had he miraculously started throwing the ball like Weeden. Frankly, he just looks like a backup compared to Weeden.

Of course this doesn’t ensure a successful career for Weeden, but we’ve seen in camp that he has the tools and the temperament to be a good one.

What will the Browns do with Colt McCoy?

Colt McCoy. UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher

Is the Colt McCoy era over in Cleveland? The Browns drafted Brandon Weeden last night with the 22nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, so now they have a quarterback that they see as “the guy” in Cleveland. Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmer made that clear with their comments last night, and then they went even further as they suggested they could be trading Colt McCoy.

Let’s deal with Brandon Weeden first. Some Browns fans are concerned about his age, but most scouts agreed that Brandon Weeden has first round talent. He has a great arm and he has the size at 6′ 4″ to play quarterback in the NFL. He’s a gunslinger, which is the opposite of Colt McCoy. Will he need to work hard and develop, given that he’s mostly played in the spread offense in the lame Big 12? Of course? But the kid is a player, and you can be sure that the handicappers on the sports betting sites will be giving the Browns more respect this season. I was hoping the Browns would grab him in the draft, and while they may have reached at bit at #22, they got the guy they wanted.

All of this is important because Colt McCoy was a huge disappointment last year. Yes, he had to learn a new system without an offseason, and for that reason he probably deserved another chance. But the Browns couldn’t afford to wait, mostly because Colt’s size and arm strength were obvious limitations. Watching Colt get thrown around like a rag doll didn’t inspire much confidence when we face the Steelers and Ravens.

More problematic, however, has been Colt’s reactions to adversity. Now I know the whole concussion fiasco was not his fault, but his father didn’t make things easier with his comments, and Colt never came out to discuss it during the offseason to diffuse the situation. Then yesterday, after the Browns selected Weeden, either Colt or someone from his camp leaked to Adam Schefter that the Browns told him to his face that they would not be drafting a quarterback in the first round. I know he may be upset, but why try to embarrass the organization? Then they put out word that Colt hasn’t requested a trade.

There’s a bit of a pattern here. Remember past year when reports came out about how Brian Daboll was mistreating Colt? Most of the public reaction was to have sympathy for McCoy. Was this intentional? Is Colt acting like a prima donna?

On one level I don’t care. But I wonder about keeping a guy like this around. It may be time for him to go.

Peyton Hillis leaves Browns and signs with Chiefs

Cleveland Browns Peyton Hillis (40) make a cut behind the block of Lawrence Vickers on New England Patriots David Bowens during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Cleveland, Ohio November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The Peyton Hillis saga is finally over. It’s a shame, as Hillis was perfect for the AFC North and had the talent to be the feature back in Cleveland for years. But his 2010 success went to his head, and the Browns weren’t going to give him a big contract after the disastrous 2011 season.

The Hillis meltdown is the prime reason why the Browns offense collapsed last year. The Browns had a new system, young wide receivers and an unproven quarterback. The challenges were significant, but we had a beast in Hillis. Sure, Pat Shurmer may not have used Hillis well at first, but having him in the backfield was critical.

With all the drama and then the hamstring injury, Hillis spent too much time on the bench, leaving Colt McCoy with inexperienced backs who were terrible in blitz pick-up. The results were ugly.

The Browns will move on, and Hillis will probably do well in KC under Brian Daboll. But anyone who blames the Browns here are just looking for something to complain about. The Browns gave Hillis a fair offer last year, but he went through three agents, and then became a problem in the locker room. He’s responsible for the mess he created.

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