Ward expected to miss 4-6 weeks

By Will Burge

Coach Pat Shurmur and the Browns PR staff have maintained that despite TJ Ward being in a cast all week, there was a slight chance he would be able to play through the injury to his right foot on Sunday against the Rams.

Multiple sources have informed me that the injury is worse than the Browns have revealed and Ward is expected to miss 4-6 weeks while his foot heals.

Ward injured his foot in the 30-12 loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday. He has not practiced at all this week and Pat Shurmur had said he would “most likely” miss Sunday’s game against the Rams.

Safety Usama Young returned to practice today and coach Shurmur said he will start in Ward’s place if he is healthy enough to play. Despite his struggles in replacing Ward last week this is a huge boost to the Browns’ secondary.

They will most likely be without Dimitri Patterson who did not practice again Friday. Rookie Buster Skrine will fill in for Patterson and rookie Eric Haag is expected to see his first significant playing time of the season.

At this point, the Browns will benefit from any veteran who can take the field.

Multiple players told me in the locker room that Ward is in good spirits and working hard to get back on the practice field as soon as possible.

Follow @WillBurge on twitter for braking Browns news, analysis, and slightly witty banter

 

Down Goes Hillis

By Will Burge

A hand off to the right side of the line is such a simple play. It happens 25 times in every viewable portion of practice. 99.9% of the time it is not worth paying attention. Friday was different.

Hillis took the handoff and glided through the hole on the right side. He made it about three yards and then something was obviously wrong.

He went from a hunched, forceful running position to an upright stance in a split second. Hillis took the football and threw it twenty yards as he began to limp towards the sideline. Once he got near the sideline he ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground. A move that usually is reserved for a scoring celebration was now a release of frustration and a declaration of pain.

As Hillis was consoled by trainers and eventually helped off the field, any doubt in my mind of the validity of his hamstring injury went out the window. If he was faking, he is in the wrong line of work. Instead of working for a rushing title he should be working towards an Oscar.

Coach Pat Shurmur confirmed to the media immediately following practice that Peyton did re-aggravate the hamstring injury which has kept him out for two straight weeks. He will have an MRI this afternoon.

In a game where the Browns so desperately needed their 1,200 yard rusher, they will now turn to Chris Ogbonnaya. In his career, he has 108 yards on 28 carries. Hillis has six games of 100+ yards. Hillis is on the cover of Madden while Ogbonnaya was on the Houston practice squad two weeks ago.

How ironic that he will get his first career start against the team where he couldn’t even crack the roster just 14 days ago.

Montario Hardesty told the media after practice that he is still working to rehab his calf injury. He was wearing a huge boot on his right leg while doing the interview. Hardesty said there is no timetable for his return.

With both Hillis and Hardesty out for the foreseeable future, the season hangs in the balance for the Browns over the next three weeks. It is tough to imagine a win on the road at Houston, but they have two very winnable home games after that.

St. Louis and Jacksonville are not only both bad football teams but could be the turning point of this season. If the Browns win those games they will be at .500 after 10 games and still in the playoff hunt. If they lose them they could be four games below .500 with the season spiraling downward.

The health at the running back position could decide that fate.

Follow Will Burge on twitter @WillBurge

 

The Mitchell Report – Can Carlton Revamp a Struggling Offense?

By Will Burge

Tony Rizzo, host of the Really Big Show, calls him “Bigfoot”. You always hear about him but never see him.

He has one of the most popular twitter accounts in the city of Cleveland with 15,000 followers and t-shirts that say “@C_Mitch18 JustSayin”.

Carlton Mitchell, to this point, has been all style and no substance.

Sunday is the day when Browns fans might finally get vindication for their love affair with Mitchell. Head Coach Pat Shurmur said in his press conference on Wednesday that not only will Carlton Mitchell be active on Sunday but they would like to use his speed and size.

Speed and size are Mitchell’s greatest attributes. At 6’3” tall and speed that landed him on the University of South Florida track team he is a matchup nightmare; at least in theory.

Mitchell can definitely add a dimension to the Browns’ offense which has been sorely lacking so far this season. He is a deep threat in every sense of the word. The real question is whether or not the Browns can use him and cash in on his strengths.

Just being on the field and running routes does not stretch a defense. Colt McCoy will have to not only trust that he can look Mitchell’s way when he is in the game, but he will also have to take chances down the field. If McCoy looks for Mitchell in routes over 20 yards down the sideline he can help pull safeties away from the line of scrimmage.

Moving the safeties away from the line will open up the intermediate routes for Massaquoi, Cribbs, and Little and allow more room for yards after the catch. It also keeps the defense from “cheating” and stacking all 11 players near the line of scrimmage to key on Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty.

If Carlton can effectively integrate into the offense, then all of a sudden the Browns’ receiving corps looks totally different. Mohammad Massaquoi (the ultimate “hands” receiver”), Greg Little (the big body physical punishing receiver), Josh Cribbs (the bubble screen playmaker), and Carlton Mitchell (the deep threat burner) doesn’t sound half bad.

Before any of that can happen, however, Mitchell needs to step on the field and prove that he deserves to be a part of this offense. It is easy for fans and media members to say “just throw the ball deep” but it is not as easily done.

With how hard it has been for the Browns to effectively move the ball it’s tough to justify wasting a down by throwing a deep route just to do it. If the receiver isn’t open and the ball doesn’t get intercepted, the Browns still lose a down and that can kill a drive.

Will McCoy even have enough time to look for a long developing deep route? If he does, will he feel comfortable enough passing to a guy who has not contributed on this offense yet? If the ball does get thrown deep, can Mitchell make the most of his opportunities? It looks like we may finally get some answers to these questions.

A finger injury and a lack of blocking ability have kept Mitchell off the field so far this season. Necessity and raw physical talent will give him a chance on Sunday. It will be up to Mitchell to take advantage and help change the Browns offense for the better.

Follow Will Burge @WillBurge on Twitter

Holmgren Is Not A Hugger, He’s A Fighter

By: Will Burge

What is it that people actually want? Do fans and residents of Cleveland want the world’s most expensive hug? Would the lack of victories be OK if fans had a warm fuzzy feeling inside knowing Mike Holmgren really loves you and your city?

The fact that Mike Holmgren went on a radio show in Seattle before he talked to anyone in Cleveland does not matter. I hate to break it to you, but in all reality that is what he SHOULD do.

Browns President Mike Holmgren

He has had a relationship with that host for more than 10 years and they did a show together. That is loyalty. There was no underlying shot at Cleveland, just a guy joining a friend on his radio show.

Holmgren made fun of the fact that people were miffed when he used the word “they” instead of “us” when talking about Browns’ fans.  He is not a Browns fan. He is the President of the Cleveland Browns.

What is his job as the President of the Cleveland Browns? His job is to build a stable, winning franchise. That does not mean one good season. That means a team that competes for the playoffs year in and year out. That’s what he told you, the fan, through the media on Thursday.

His job is not to ensure you that he will be in Cleveland for 10 years and move his entire family here. His job is not to tell you that Cleveland in a great place to live. It IS a great place to live and you should not need anyone else to tell you that.

I, for one, don’t want Mike Holmgren to be here for 10 years. If he is here for 10 years than that means it has taken 10 years to get the culture, front office, and roster moving in the same winning direction.

I hope he is gone at the end of his five year contract. That would mean the Browns had made the playoffs for at least two seasons and maybe even three. I don’t need a big verbal hug. I need a victory on Sunday from the football team.

Mike Holmgren did not need to talk to the media on Thursday. The fans WANTED Mike Holmgren to talk to the media. There is a distinct difference.

The reality of the situation is that by talking during a tough time in the season it undermines Pat Shurmur. Whether you like Shurmur or not he is going to be here for a while, so why would his boss rip the power right out of his hands.

Holmgren was forced to talk today because of knee-jerk backlash and ridiculous expectations for the team, coach, and organization. Did anyone really think the Browns would be better than 2-3 at this point in the season? If so, how much better did you think they would be? Maybe 3-2?

This is a re-build. The first real re-build since the Browns have returned to the NFL. A re-build built on solid draft picks and not hastily throwing money at free agents just to help “see if a quarterback has what it takes.”

Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert are football minds, I’m pretty sure they can figure that part out.

This is a bottom line business and for years the bottom line was that people came to Cleveland to collect a check. Finally, there is a football “rock star” here giving the franchise some legitimacy. You may criticize Holmgren but that is what he is. Holmgren is a gridiron “rock star”.

Embrace the fact that the last two drafts have been eerily good. Embrace the fact that this organization has one of the best General Managers in the league, you know the guy no one EVER talks about, in Tom Heckert.

Fans have every right to be mad about losses. Fans have every right to be mad when the locker room closely resembles a Barnum & Bailey production. But try and keep everything in perspective.

Teams that lose always have drama. That’s why the Browns have always had drama.

This is a bottom line business and that bottom line will eventually decide whether or not this regime will be a success. Their success will not be measured by the way they addressed the Cleveland fan base or media.

It’s Time for Hillis to Stop the Madness

By Will Burge

At a certain point enough is enough. If there is one thing that a young football team cannot afford, it is drama.

The Browns have avoided the drama of a major injury, a losing streak, or a quarterback controversy. Unfortunately, just four weeks into the season, drama of another kind is swirling inside the locker room and around the organization.

Just over a week before the season started the Browns extended the contract of tight end Evan Moore. Just before kickoff in week 1 they extended defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin . After they defeated the Miami Dolphins in week 3, the team extended the contract of outside linebacker Chris Gocong.

People were getting paid and everyone was happy. Everyone except Peyton Hillis. Just days before Chris Gocong received his contract extension the Browns were playing host to the Miami Dolphins without their biggest offensive threat. Hillis missed the game with strep throat and that’s when the rumors started to fly.

Let’s start by debunking the rumor that Peyton Hillis was not sick. I was the one who saw him leave the locker room and head for the parking lot. He did not look good. I’m not a doctor, but that was a man who looked very ill.

The major problem only arose when, almost two weeks after the game Hillis missed, his agent Kennard McGuire told the AP that he was the one who instructed Hillis to sit out. While trying to deflect some of the heat Hillis was taking for missing a game McGuire dowsed the flames with gasoline.

People in “the know” see McGuire as one the few really nice guys in the NFL agent ranks. He, most likely, was really just giving some fatherly advice to his player and the situation spun out of control.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter also reported that there were some people in the Browns locker room who suspected Hillis was not as sick as he said. I have spoken to most of the players on and off the record and have not gotten that indication from anyone. I’m pretty sure, however, Schefter’s report was accurate. In a 53 man locker room there will always be one or two guys with dissenting points of view.

I do not expect Hillis to demand a trade. I do not expect the Browns to explore the option of trading Hillis either. A team that is trying to build and stockpile young talent cannot afford to trade away a 25 year old running back with a 1,200 yard season under his belt.

Our own Chris Fedor reported on Friday night that he is hearing Peyton Hillis and the Browns are still about $2 million apart per year on a contract extension.  To put that in perspective, that’s about the difference between Frank Gore ($4.9 million per year base salary) and Cedric Benson ($3 million per year base salary).

Another report from ProFootballTalk.com said that the Browns and Hillis are close on the salary but are still negotiating the guaranteed money and length.

Either way it is time for Hillis to put a stop to this madness.

All Peyton Hillis has to do is come out next Wednesday (the day he normally talks to the media) and say that this is not an issue. He needs to say that he will not address it again and that he would rather table contract discussions until after the season than have it be a distraction for the team.

He doesn’t actually have to table the discussions but he needs to tell the media that he is. Stop adding fuel to the fire and pushing the rest of the team into awkward questions. Stop using team drama as leverage for more money.

All he has to do to slow down this avalanche of drama is lie to the media. I am ok with it. I am sure everyone else will be too. It wouldn’t be the first time an athlete didn’t tell us the truth and it certainly won’t be the last. At least this time, however, it would be for the betterment of the team.

Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge

 

Browns: Bye Week Grades

By Will Burge

Some people give you overall grades. Some give you positional grades. No one, and I mean no one, gives you player by player grades at the bye week. It isn’t because I’m better than anyone else but simply because I had a TON of spare time on my hands with the Browns off for four days.

So here we go. I have included some grades from my twitter followers as well at a few positions.

OFFENSE

QB

Coly McCoy – Grade: C- (100-172, 58%, 984 yards, 6TDs, 3INTs, 5.7 yards per attempt)

McCoy has had one good drive through four games. The fact that the one good drive gave the Browns a come from behind victory over the Dolphins boosted his score from a D+ to a C-. He has missed quite a few open throws and needs to learn to trust what is around him, especially the line. They get some flack but have performed pretty well overall. Colt still needs to learn how to step up in the pocket and throw with confidence instead of running at the first sign of trouble.

Fan Grade: @ClevelandBebbs said “Colt McCoy B-, has played well; must get better”

RB

Peyton Hillis – Grade: C+ (54 rushes, 197 yards, 2TDs, 3.6 yards per carry [played 3 of 4 games])

Hillis had only 17 carries against the Bengals and 10 against the Titans. Against the Colts, however, he had 27 carries for 97 yards and 2 TDS. In the Titans game Hillis was more of a non-factor because the game got away from the Browns early but he did not run well against Cincy. That poor game, plus the lost fumble in Indy, gives him a C+ overall.

Fan Grade: @XCWarrior1 said “Management gets an F for not finishing Hillis contract during this week AND not going out + signing/trading for a viable WR.”

Montario Hardesty – Grade: B- (29 rushes, 108 yards, 0TDs, 1 fumble, 3.7 yards per carry)

Hills’ and Hardesty’s stats look very similar but the reason Hardesty gets a B- is that he was put into a difficult spot having to start before he was physically ready against Miami. In that game he rushed 19 times for 67 yards and also added 19 yards receiving. He has shown above average blocking, good vision, and most importantly has stayed healthy.

WR

Mohammad Massaquoi – Grade: B+ (14 receptions, 194 yards, 1TD, 13.9 yards per reception)

Despite missing the entire pre-season, Massaquoi has looked the most confortable in the newly installed west coast offense. His above average route running has allowed him to become the most consistent passing threat. The game winning TD catch against Miami gave his grade a little boost.

Josh Cribbs – Grade: A (12 receptions, 153 yards, 1TD, 12.8 yards per reception)

Cribbs has taken his biggest jump as a wide receiver in his career but the high grade comes from his kick returns. Despite the kick return rule changes, Cribbs has not been slowed. He has sparked the offense in multiple weeks and made an impact when he is able to get his hands on some passes.

Greg Little – Grade: C+ (14 receptions, 131 yards, 0TDs, 9.4 yards per reception)

I would like to see Little assert himself more early in games. He seems to become more effective as the game wears on. He knows how to use his big body to shield defenders from the ball and blocks well. He needs to find the end zone and become the most dangerous receiver on the Browns in the final 12 games.

Brian Robiskie – Grade: D- (3 receptions, 25 yards, 0TDs, 8.3 yards per reception)

Where has Brian Robiskie been? I know the answer. He’s been working his way out of the offensive game plan. All three of his catches came in the blowout loss to the Titans where he was essentially a non-factor again. His blocking is the only thing that kept him from an F.

Jordan Norwood – Grade: Incomplete

Carlton Mitchell – Grade: Incomplete

TE

Ben Watson – Grade: B+ (16 reception, 173 yards, 2TDs, 10.8 yards per reception)

Watson has been far and away the best receiving threat on the team. He is the only receiver that McCoy shows confidence in on the field. I have a hunch you will see more plays that have Watson as a deep threat in the final 12 games.

Evan Moore – Grade: D+ (7 receptions, 85 yards, 2 TDs, 12.1 yards per reception)

Moore has not been the playmaker the Browns would have liked so far this season. I know what you’re thinking, “but he hasn’t been on the field!” Think about this for a moment: Why would the Browns not give many snaps to a guy they gave a contract extension and has the most “big play” potential on the team? Maybe it has something to do with the two different one-handed attempts on very catchable balls or the fact he is a below average blocker. Effort goes a long way.

Alex Smith – Grade: C (5 receptions, 41 yards, 0TDs, 8.2 yards per reception)

He is backup tight end who blocks well. Any catches they get from Smith are a bonus.

Jordan Cameron – Grade: Incomplete

OL

Joe Thomas – Grade: B-

Thomas would have a higher grade but he has had some off-sides penalties that you wouldn’t expect from a veteran. I have only seen him get beat twice and once was by Dwight Freeney on a speed rush.

Jason Pinkston – Grade: C

I think before the season most people would have taken a C from the rookie left guard. He has been very solid. He has gotten beat here and there but never consistently. He has adapted well to the speed of the game and is initiating contact more and more.

Alex Mack – Grade: B+

Mack is about as good as it gets at center. Not only has he been very steady in pass protection but we have seen a little bit of the “mean streak” he lacked in the first few years of his career.

Shawn Lauvao – Grade: C-

Lauvao has been solid as well. He needs to eliminate the penalties and from time to time he doesn’t get the push you would like from your right guard.

Tony Pashos/Artis Hicks/Oniel Cousins  – Grade: D

When there has been pressure on McCoy it has almost always came from this position. Pashos is finally healthy and needs to find that rhythm with Lauvao next to him.

DEFENSE

DL

Jayme Mitchell – Grade: C- (14tackles, 12 solo, 1.5 sacks, 1 fumble)

Opposing teams have keyed on running right at Mitchell week in and week out. Mitchell has certainly improved from game 1 but still needs to become stouter on run defense. His pass rush is slightly above average at this point.

Ahtyba Rubin – Grade: B (18tackles, 12 solo, 2.5 sacks)

The pressure Rubin has created form the defensive tackle position in a 4-3 scheme is amazing. He has become the rock on the defensive line. The only thing keeping him from an A grade was that he was not able to get into the backfield against the Titans.

Phil Taylor – Grade: B (20 tackles, 11 solo, 1 sack)

Taylor has adjusted to the NFL game quicker than anyone could have ever imagined. He has become a huge key in pass rush as well as clogging up the run in between the tackles. Once again, the only thing that kept him from an A was lack of pressure against the Titans.

Jabaal Sheard – Grade: C+ (14 tackles, 10 solo, 1 sack, 1 fumble)

Sheard is a future pass rush superstar. Since the move to the opposite side of the line, he has been disruptive in in the passing game and much better against the run. I would not be surprised if he ended up with an A at the end of the season.

Fan Grade: @SamEC37 said “Sheard should get a B+ despite not having the #’s he had been in the backfield disrupting the QB every week but last week.”

LB

Chris Gocong – Grade: C- (10 tackles, 5 solo, .5 sacks)

Gocong is another reason the rush defense has been suspect. Teams have attacked his side of the field time and time again. His defense improved in games 3 and 4 but he was so bad in games 1 and 2 that it cannot be ignored. The stinger that kept him out of the whole pre-season may have something to do with his slow start.

D’Qwell Jackson – Grade: A+ (40 tackles, 27 solo, 2.5 sacks, 1 fumble)

You can’t start a season much better than D’Qwell did and that’s why he was the AFC defensive player of the month. He has made tackles on both sidelines with ease and knows exactly when to abandon his zone and pressure the backfield. He has been by far the best player on the Browns through four games.

Fan Grade: @DPOUTZ said “@dq52 A+ he has been the stand out on defense he is a rock solid tackler and has improved his pass rush”

Scott Fujita – Grade: C (23 tackles, 15 solo)

Fujita has been solid. He has not been spectacular. Both he and Gocong have been a big reason the defense has allowed as much rushing yards as they have. He was also targeted by the Titans in pass coverage and he proved he cannot handle a tight end one-on-one.

DB

Sheldon Brown – Grade: D (13 tackles, 10 solo, 1 fumble)

Brown has been solid on 80% of the snaps. Unfortunately for him, the 20% where he has not been solid he has been abysmal. He has been beat on comeback routes, he has been beat deep, he has been caught holding and got pass interference calls. His leadership and experience are valuable but he has been a weak link in a very good pass defense.

Joe Haden – Grade: A- (13 tackles, 11 solo, 1 sack)

Haden is budding into a superstar. He is now being assigned the opposing teams’ best receivers and shutting them down. If he keeps progressing at this rate he could become one of the best defensive backs in football.

S

T.J. Ward – Grade: C- (18 tackles, 14 solo)

I still think TJ Ward is one of the best young strong safeties in the game but he has had a rough start to this year. He has missed some key tackles, been burned in coverage, and made bad decisions in zone coverage that ended in touchdowns. No one needed a bye week more than TJ.

Usama Young – Grade: C+ (14 tackles, 10 solo, 1 interception)

Young is not known for his tackling and it showed. He has to improve in that category. He has been above average in pass coverage. More consistent reps should help him find his game in the final 12 games.

Mike Adams – Grade: C (10 tackles, 7 solo, 2 interceptions)

Adams really lacks the ability to cover across the middle. He isn’t terrible but he is exactly what he has been his entire career, a solid to above average back-up.

Special Teams

Phil Dawson – Grade: B+ (6-6 FGs)

Phil “freaking “Dawson is the very definition of reliable.

Brad Maynard – Grade: B (14 punts, 5 inside the 20, 40.5 yards per punt)

He has been more than solid since replacing the disaster that was Richmond “Punts” McGee.

Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge

 

Browns Film Review: Mistakes O’ Plenty

By Will Burge

There is only one word to describe the Browns performance against the Tennessee Titans: Ugly.

After reviewing the film, it reminded me quite a bit of week 1 against the Bengals. The Browns had less than one quarter of quality effort from the offense and mental mistakes killed the defense.

Here are some quarter by quarter notes after re-watching the game multiple times.

1st Quarter

For the first time this season the Browns were able to move the ball in the opening quarter. Pat Shurmur set up the pass with a heavy dose of Hillis early in the quarter and Hardesty late.

The offensive line played unbelievable in the first quarter. McCoy had plenty of time to look down field and the only time the line was beat was on the 3rd down play of the second drive where Shurmur called for a Josh Cribbs sweep. On that play, Mack was beat which forced Cribbs to reverse field. The failed play made the Browns settle for a field goal.

The weak part of the offense in the first quarter was the quarterback. McCoy had opportunities to put six points on the board but was not able to take advantage. All the good plays he made were negated by the bad ones.

Good: McCoy steps up and hits Robiskie over the middle to pick up a first down on the first drive. The deep pass for 25 yards to Greg Little on the second drive. The 27-yard pass to Hardesty at the end of the 1st quarter which gave the Browns a first down in Titans territory.

Bad: The rollout throw on the first drive where McCoy tried to force a pass into Massaquoi on the sideline. The ball was intercepted but luckily the defender could not keep his feet in bounds. Also, the second play of the second drive where McCoy had all the time in the world and threw behind Ben Watson about 20 yards down field. If McCoy hits Watson in stride it is a touchdown. The safety had cleared and there was no pressure on McCoy.

The defense played well in the first quarter. The gave up one big run to Chris Johnson (25 yards) and a touchdown pass in the red zone but that touchdown drive was set up by Phil Dawson landing the kick-off out of bounds giving the Titans a short field to work with.

7-3 Titans lead

2nd Quarter

The second quarter is where things really fell apart for the Browns.

They started the quarter with a 2nd & 8 at the Titans 26 yard line. McCoy fumbled the snap on the first play forcing the Browns into a 3rd & 16 play. With the Browns in an obvious passing situation the Titans brought a blitz. McCoy did not recognize where the pressure was coming from, and he almost threw an interception into double coverage. The drive ended in a field goal but it was another missed opportunity deep in Titans territory.

The first play of the next Titans’ possession was an 80 yard TD pass to Jared Cook.  Former Browns head coach and Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer did a great job of recognizing the Browns’ weaknesses and exploiting them.

He isolated Jared Cook on Scott Fujita and Fujita had no chance. Once he was beat, the last line of defense was safety Usama Young who took a terrible angle and missed the tackle.

After trading possessions back and forth, the Browns got the ball back at midfield still only trailing 14-6. Tony Pashos, who was making his first start of the season, was flagged for a false start and that put the Browns in a 1st & 15 situation. This set of downs is where Pat Shurmur called the 4th & 1 play that had Armond Smith receive the ball on a pitch instead of running Hillis up the middle or a quarterback sneak. Whether it was the correct play call or not it didn’t work and that is the bottom line.

The Browns forced the Titans to punt but once again the offense stalled just inside Titans’ territory. With 1:34 second left in the first half the Browns punted back to the Titans and only trailed 14-6. This next possession won the game for Tennessee.

TJ Ward missed a tackle allowing a first down on a crossing route. Then, with 50 seconds left in the half, the Titans ran a “pick play” where the routes crossed on the outside and the receiver bumped Dimitri Patterson off his man. It resulted in a Nate Washington reception that got Tennessee all the way inside the Browns 5 yard line. There isn’t much Patterson could do about being moved off the route but the reason the play was so successful was that the Browns rushed six people and no one got to the quarterback.

Sheldon Brown was beat on a touchdown pass and the Browns were all but buried heading into the half.

The defense could not get any pressure on the quarterback all game long but the second quarter was especially bad.

21-6 Titans Lead

Second Half

The Browns were awful in the second half so there is no need to go quarter by quarter. Here are some second half notes from the film.

-        Greg Little set the Browns 1st offensive series behind with a block in the back on a punt return.

-        McCoy held the ball too long and was sacked stalling that drive.

-        McCoy’s interception was maybe his worst decision of the year. Jason Pinkston was beat which flushed McCoy from the pocket. Instead of throwing the ball away, which McCoy told the media he should have done after the game, he tried to force a pass where there were three Titans and no Browns.

-        Hardesty had a serious case of the dropsies and two of them would have kept drives alive.

-        Evan Moore’s one handed attempt in the end zone is one of the reasons people think he isn’t getting as much playing time as he would like. It’s the second time this year he has done that and some feel it reflects a lack of effort.

-        Peyton Hillis played much less in the second half than Montario Hardesty. Was it because Hardesty is involved in more passing formations or something else?

-        Colt McCoy stopped looking downfield toward the end of the third quarter. The Titans knew the Browns had to pass and all McCoy could do was try and get rid of the ball before the rush arrived.

-        The defense played the run well and gave the offense a few chances to get back into the game including a Mike Adams interception after cutting the lead to 31-13. They played better than in the 1st half but still could not get any pressure in the backfield.

-        Colt McCoy said it best after the game. “This was a total team loss”

Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge

Backfield Moving Forward

By Will Burge

One of the budding story lines in Berea is the dynamic between Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Before last week, there was only speculation whether Hardesty could handle the workload in an NFL game. No one knew whether or not he could be effective.

Due to an unexpected case of strep throat and an even more unexpected performance by Hardesty, the question now has to be asked: How do the Browns split their carries?

Coach Pat Shurmur said earlier this week that he would like to play both Hardesty and Hillis in the backfield at the same time more often. When pressed further, Shurmur said that he felt Hillis would be the fullback in those situations.

Instead of the usual mantra of “Peyton Hillis is our feature back and he will demand the majority of the carries” we are now hearing “Peyton Hillis is the feature back BUT how we split the carries between the backs will be determined upon game planning.

Make no mistake; Hillis will receive the bulk of the carries against Tennessee. He will again receive the bulk of the carries against Oakland. Each week, however, Hardesty’s carries will increase. If his production follows suite, the Browns will be facing some tough decisions.

Do they pay big money to a guy that may not even be the feature back of the future? Do they put their eggs in the basket of a second year pro that has a long history of injuries? Can they afford to pay Hillis big money to have him possibly be a glorified full back in years to come?

All of these questions are valid and no one knows the answers.

If Hardesty can carry a heavy workload and help spell Hillis throughout the game, the Browns offense is much more dangerous. Hardesty adds a big play dynamic which Hillis lacks. Teams would have to game plan for a battering ram type back AND a slash and cut back runner. The best offenses have both.

For now, Hillis remains “the guy” with Hardesty picking up the scraps. If Hardesty continues to impress, however, it will present a problem for the Browns. A problem they would absolutely love to have.

Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge

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