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Jimmy Haslam introduces Joe Banner as Browns CEO


Image source: Browns Official Facebook Page

In another impressive news conference, Jimmy Haslam introduced Joe Banner to the Cleveland media today. We heard many of things that we often hear when a new regime takes over, but for the first time the chief executive was joined by an owner who is committed to being involved in the management of the franchise. After Randy Lerner’s absentee ownership, Haslam and Banner came across as a breath of fresh air.

Many in the media are quite giddy, and for good reason. Just having a leader like Jimmy Haslam coupled with a smart and capable NFL executive should bode well for the Browns in the future. That said, nothing Joe Banner said was materially different from what Mike Holmgren said when he took over as team president. The goal was to get a team of smart people who would all be on the same page working towards a common goal. Both emphasized building through the draft. Banner seems open to strategically using free agency, but he emphasized that free agents can be counterproductive if you sign them before a team is ready to compete.

Frankly, Holmgren has started a youth movement with the Browns that should provide a nice foundation for Haslam and Banner, regardless of whether they keep Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur. On that front they seem genuine in their statements that both men will be evaluated at the end of the year. But assuming they don’t do something stupid, like bring in a GM and head coach who want to run the 3-4 over the 4-3, they should be fine as long as they can identify good coaches and GM candidates. I do hope they keep Heckert, and Shurmur should get consideration if he turns the season around, but Haslam and Banner need to get comfortable with these guys.

On offense, the system matters less, as all of these players can fit into another system. But on defense, switching to the 3-4 and in effect throwing away three productive drafts that have built the foundation of a good defensive front would be idiotic. I don’t expect that.

Many are enjoying kicking Mike Holmgren while he’s down, but his legacy is hardly set in stone. He and Heckert have gone with a dramatic youth movement. If the Browns are in the playoffs in the next couple of years with guys like Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Brandon Weeden, Phil Taylor and Joe Haden leading the way, many of us will happily credit Holmgren and Heckert for building the foundation of that success.

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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.

Cleveland Browns defense ranked #4 in NFL

Oakland Raiders QB Jason Campbell (8) is tackled by Cleveland Browns Chris Gocong (51) and Scott Fujita (99) in a play that resulted in Campbell breaking his collarbone at the Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 16, 2011. The Raiders defeated the Browns 24-17. UPI/Terry Schmitt

After six games, the Browns are 3-3 and have the #4 ranked defense in the NFL based on yards allowed per game. The defense is ranked 9th if you look at points allowed per game.

Given all the moaning and groaning we’re hearing from the fans, this stat might be a surprise. We’ll how the entire season plays out, particularly as the schedule gets tougher, but the Browns are seeing the payoff from drafting for defense. Tom Heckert has found excellent players in the draft, with Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard leading the way. The Browns are better this year on defense, and much younger as well.

Colt McCoy and the offense gets all the attention, but the defense is important as well. So far, it looks like the Browns are building a defense that can be a force for years to come.

Browns bounce back

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis (40) turns upfield after a pass reception during the second quarter of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on September 18, 2011. UPI /Mark Cowan

The week one loss to the Bungles was painful, but this is a nice win against the Colts:

- Pat Shurmer used Peyton Hillis more this week and it worked, though Hillis needs to figure out his fumble problem.

- Tom Heckert is looking like a genius. Phil Taylor looks like a top 5 pick and Jabaal Sheard looks like a real pass rusher.

- Colt McCoy had a very good game. He was very accurate and again he made plays on the run. He’s like a Mini Big Ben.

- I have no sympathy for the Colts. They’ve done nothing over the years to develop a real backup for Peyton Manning, unlike other good teams like the Patriots. Several years ago Browns fans had to watch as the Colts played Sorgi in the final game and lost us a playoff spot.

The Browns did the right thing in the first round

In Cleveland, plenty of fans questioned the decision to trade down in the first round. The guys on WKNR were all pissed off during their coverage . . . until they calmed down and used their head instead of their emotions.

Outside of Cleveland, EVERYONE knew that the Browns did the right thing when Atlanta offered up a boatload of picks for their #6 selection in the first round.

As for Phil Taylor, clueless fans criticized the pick, but this is the kind of player that can have a significant impact on a defense. Paired with Ahtyba Rubin in the middle of the line, the Browns can now start to match up physically with teams like the Steelers and the Ravens.

It’s a great start for the Browns.

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