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

 

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Roda’s Report Card

By: Kenny Roda

Cincinnati Bengals  – grade (A) – As crazy as owner Mike Brown looked in not trading Carson Palmer at the beginning of the season, getting rid of his 2 best receivers in OchoCinco and Terrell Owens, letting cornerback Jonathan Joseph walk in free agency, and keeping Marvin Lewis around as head coach, the Bengals are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season.  The drafting of QB Andy Dalton and his play, plus the defense playing at a high level, are big reasons why the Bengals, at the half way point, are tied for 1st place in the AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens – grade (A) –  The biggest reason they get an “A” is because they finally have defeated the Steelers twice in the same season to gain the tie breaker in the division and potentially home field advantage in the playoffs.  The defense is doing what it always does and Joe Flacco may have turned the corner towards becoming a top-flight quarterback with his impressive game winning 92 yard drive at Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers – grade (B-) – Despite an older defense with a weak secondary, an average to below average offensive line and injuries on offense and defense, the Steelers have won 6 of their first 9 games which puts them right in the divisional race and the playoff race.  However with the defense and head coach blowing that Ravens game at home, allowing Baltimore to hold the tie breaking edge, the Steelers can get no higher than a “B-” grade in this mid-term report.

Cleveland Browns – grade (D-) – 1st year head coach Pat Shurmur looks overwhelmed and befuddled at times on the sidelines during a game. His “West Coast” offense, in which he is calling the plays for, is struggling mightily, being outscored 58-6 in the 1st quarter of games and is averaging under 15 points per game.  Colt McCoy seems to be regressing at QB.  The offensive line, while a little banged up has been terrible. The defense, while it has some players to build around in Joe Haden, Phil Taylor and T.J. Ward, still cannot stop the run. When your MVP at the midway point is your kicker who has made 6 field goals of 50 yards or more, your season can’t be going well.  As crazy as this may sound, this team is not as good as it’s record at (3-5).  The 3 teams they have beaten have a combined record of (3-22) this season.

Follow Kenny on Twitter @RoadmanWKNR

Any Given Sunday

By Munch

There were more than NINJA’s running around my head yesterday as I watched the Browns regress in their loss to Houston!  I also need to say, and this one TRULY hurts me, that I have removed the BROWNS from the “ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY” list as of now, because they CANNOT POSSIBLY win a game!

Other thoughts from the little BROWNIE’s elf’s running around in my gourd…

* The BROWNS throw the ball on 3rd and 1. OK, in the WEST COAST OFFENSE the pass is an extension of the hand off, but why not sneak Colt? Where is our FULLBACK to lead one of the RB’s through a hole?

* The emasculation of the Browns took place on a vanilla sweep when the game was right about the 2 minute mark and the Texans had 4th and 6!  4th and 6 and they get the 1st down!  DEFENSE should be embarrassed for the whole game AND that fact!

* Colt did throw a deep ball effortlessly!  Problem?  Little NO SEPARATION!  Greg knew it too.

* What about the Browns falling prey to stuff arms?  CHOP IT AWAY LIKE YOU WERE BREAKING A TWO B Y FOUR and you will not see it again…and perhaps the person using it!

* COLTS HATAS…just a thought for you…He may not be around long when he gets hit with CLEAN, RUNNING START SHOTS frequently and sacked by not one, but 2, 3 even 4 opponents!

What can cure this regression?  WIN SUNDAY as the Rams come to town!  C’mon Shurmur…BEAT YOUR OLD TEAM!

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

 

Answers To Questions

By: Kenny Roda

I went into Halloween weekend with plenty of questions about both the Buckeyes and the Browns, and both teams gave me the answers I was looking for.

  • OHIO STATE

Yes the Buckeyes are making progress. In fact they are making a lot of progress.  After a 3-3 start, the Buckeyes have posted back-to-back wins over ranked opponents in Illinois on the road, and Wisconsin at home. Of the two most recent wins, the one over the Badgers this weekend really stands out.  This was a team that was ranked as high as 4th in the polls just two weeks ago. Wisconsin on paper has far more talent than Ohio State this year.  However, head coach Luke Fickell and the Buckeyes were not intimidated by Brett Bielema’s squad. Ohio State went toe-to-toe with the heavy weights from Madison in the first half and only trailed by 4.  Credit Fickell and the O.S.U. coaching staff for making some halftime adjustments and then the Buckeyes proceeded to come out of the locker room and put up 30 points in the final two quarters to post a thrilling 33-29 upset win over Wisconsin.  Ohio State ran the ball with ease and threw when they needed to.  Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller was the difference.  He ripped of TD runs of 1 and 44 yards, while also throwing the game winning touchdown pass of 40 yards with just :20 seconds remaining.  Miller’s toss was a thing of beauty, showing how much he has grown in the last 4 weeks.  He took the shotgun snap, side stepped a would be tackler, and then while running to his right, surveyed the field, located a wide open receiver in Devin Smith, then off of one foot while falling out of bounds, lofted a perfect pass to Smith in the end zone for the game winner.  Against Michigan State on October 1st what did he do in that late game situation?

Nothing, because he wasn’t even in the game.  He was benched for his ineffectiveness.  That’s how far Miller has come. From watching crunch time on the bench, to winning in crunch time and on prime time TV.  It also helps when you have senior running back Boom Herron to hand the ball of to 33 times for 160 yards, and a defense that held the vaunted Badgers running game to just 89 yards.  But make no mistake about it, the 33-29 win over Wisconsin was all about “Miller Time” and then celebration time. On Halloween weekend in Columbus, after that performance, it is indeed scary to think how good Braxton Miller can be, wearing the “Scarlet and Gray” over the next three years.

  • CLEVELAND BROWNS

They are who I thought they were, “Fools Gold!”  They can beat up on the cellar dwellers in the NFL: Miami, Indianapolis and Seattle. But look over matched against the plus.500 teams in the league in: San Francisco, Oakland, Cincinnati and Tennessee.  In fact, the Browns 3 wins have come against teams with a combined record of (2-20). They’ve beaten one team who has a win this season. The Browns 4 losses have come against teams with a combined record of (19-9).  Pat Shurmur continues to struggle as a 1st year head coach and offensive coordinator.  Shurmur’s offense through 7 games has been out scored 44-3 in the first stanza.  That’s right, the Browns have scored a total of 3 points all season long in the 1st quarter.  Quarterback Colt McCoy continues to struggle and regress at the most important position in sports.  Most of McCoy’s big passing numbers are being posted in the 4th quarter when teams are comfortably ahead, and play a softer defense to allow the opposition to use up clock.  I’ve had my questions about McCoy since Mike Holmgren drafted him, and now through 15 NFL starts (a 5-10 record), those questions still remain.  Will his size be a hindrance (6’1 supposedly)? Can his body (reportedly 215 pounds) withstand the punishment that an NFL starting QB takes on a weekly basis, especially in the rugged AFC North division?  Does he have the arm strength to throw it down the field and in the windy, cold weather that takes over Browns stadium in November and December?

So far the answers to those questions are Yes, Maybe and I Don’t Think So, and that’s not good.  While the defense has made some improvement over the last two years, with the additions of Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Phil Taylor, it’s not enough to offset the continued poor performance of the offense.  So until there is better overall balance, a more powerful offense and better coaching, the Browns will continue to be “Fools Gold”.  A team that is good enough to beat teams that are worse than them, sneak out an upset win here or there, but when it is all said and done, be drafting in the top 10 every April.  And you die hard, passionate fans in Cleveland deserve far better than that!

A Scary Weekend

By: Kenny Roda

This is a very important weekend for football fans in the Buckeye state. Come Sunday night, about 8pm, we should have a better understanding about how good the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Browns really are. Arguably both teams are facing their toughest tests of the season.  Ohio State, hosting the 15th ranked Wisconsin Badgers and the Browns, playing a 1st place San Francisco team on the road.

Wisconsin Quarterback Russell Wilson

For the Buckeyes, this game will determine if they have been making progress through what has been a tumultuous season both on and off the field.  Also at stake, thanks to Michigan State’s remarkable comeback victory over the Badgers last week in East Lansing, is a chance for Ohio State to get back in the Leaders Division race for the right to play in the 1st ever Big Ten Championship game. A win over a ranked team would boost their confidence, and put them in control for the most part, to be the Leaders Division representative on December 3rd in Indianapolis. If the Buckeyes were to knock off the Badgers, and then win out, they would need Penn St. to lose one other Big Ten game to win the division.

For the Browns, a win on Sunday would be the squad’s first victory over a team with a winning record this year.  So far the opponents in the Browns three wins this season have a combined record of (2-17), because of that, it’s hard to tell whether Pat Shurmur’s team is a legit .500 team and getting better, or the beneficiary of a very week schedule with a bunch of back-up QB’s, and thus might be considered fools gold. Going out to the west coast and beating a (5-1) 49ers team would definitely prove that they are more than just a team who can beat the cellar dwellers in the NFL, that they are a team that is improving, and is headed in the right direction for this year and beyond.

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

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