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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cleveland Browns: The Biggest Early-Season Storylines for Week 3 - Bleacher Report

Late-rounder Billy Winn started at DT. That might have been significant if he had played more than seven snaps before leaving the game with a concussion.

Instead, his departure led to significant playing time for UFA Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, who made two tackles.

On the depth chart, John Hughes may be backing up Ahtya Rubin, but in the nature of modern defensive line rotations he saw plenty of action and recorded six tackles, a sack and a QB hit.

Juqua Parker gained a sack before he, too, left the game with an injury. Emmanuel Stephens continued to show that he belongs in the pros by filling in.

Frostee Rucker chalked up a sack versus his old team. Check off one thing on his 2012 “to do” list.

Jimmy Haslam may note that both of the Browns free agent acquisitions got to the quarterack twice in this game. That’s not a bad investment and reflects well on the current front office, which also looks good for drafting Winn and Hughes and signing Stephens and Kitchen.

It might not be enough to save their jobs, but it shouldn't be ignored.

As for linebackers, it’s ironic that Scott Fujita returned to the field just in time to snatch his job back from outstanding rookie LB James-Michael Johnson.

At least Cleveland fans think he’s outstanding. That’s how he looked in camp and the preseason before this rib/oblique injury sidelined him. It was not guaranteed that Fujita could have beaten the rookie LB for the starting gig.

In other linebacker action, D’Qwell Jackson is burning up the turf and UFA Craig Robertson continued to be a standout with another six tackles coming off the bench.

The defensive storyline in Week 3 versus the Buffalo Bills will be the ability of the front seven to stop C.J. Spiller, who has decided to join the ranks of professional running backs here in his third season. 

If Safety T. J. Ward starts having to come up and make plays in the running gameâ€"it could be a fatal blow. Ward led the defense in tackles in Week 2. See, that’s not ideal.

Fortunately, the Browns D played far better against the run in Week 2, holding decent rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis to 3.6 yards per rush and no scores.

The Bills offensive ability is probably somewhere between the gross ineptitude displayed against the Jets and the playground romp versus the zombies masquerading as the Kansas City Chiefs D in Week 2.

The Browns D handled the Eagles quite well in the opener, so they could theoretically get the ball back for their offense. As long as Spiller doesn’t have 75 yards by halftime.

Ohio State Buckeyes Football: Will Urban Meyer Debunk Big Ten Stereotypes? - Bleacher Report

No conference has undergone as much scrutiny and criticism in the past few years as the Big Ten has.

And most of it has been deserved.

The Big Ten has a reputation for being a slow, plodding conference full of conservative coaches who don't pull in big-time athletes.

Ohio State, one of the few Big Ten schools that can pull in those kinds of athletes, is largely to blame for the stereotype of the Big Ten after back-to-back national championship game losses. Ironically enough, the coach who dealt OSU its first title game loss is now standing on the Buckeyes' sideline: Urban Meyer.

The typical Urban Meyer team that we saw at Florida was almost the antithesis of Big Ten squad, full of speedsters and a very aggressive, opportunistic mentality on both sides of the ball.

The Buckeyes do have the ability to be that kind of team, even within a year or two, simply because of Meyer's national reputation and the reputation of the program itself. And he has the right quarterback to help him as well: Braxton Miller.

The sophomore is the prototypical dual-threat quarterback. He has already put together a strong start to his sophomore seasonâ€"one that has generated early Heisman talks. With his ability to run and his potential as a passer, Miller has already shown that he's a perfect fit for Meyer's spread offense.

It's early, but thus far coach and quarterback seem to be an ideal match. They will have possibly two years together and will set their sights on winning conference titles and possibly a national championship.

But the biggest thing that might change in the Big Ten is that other teams in the conference will need to play catchup with the Buckeyes. Ohio State could be embarking on a run of conference dominance similar to that enjoyed at the end of the Jim Tressel era, when the Buckeyes won five straight Big Ten titles (the 2010 title was vacated, of course).

If they can win a national championship or two, that will force the other top teams in the conference like Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin to really step up their recruiting efforts and make sure they can compete with Ohio State.

First things first though, OSU has to be able to win a Big Ten championship, which they still have to wait a year for due to NCAA sanctions.

But in a way, it's better for Meyer and Miller to have that year because the first three games showed thatâ€"while they're goodâ€"they're not great...yet.

The mental lapses the defense had all last year have already created a few red flags, and the offense, though they are putting up nice numbers, struggles from a lack of consistency and too few playmakers.

Luckily, those are things that can be corrected and fixed in a year or two, probably sooner if you bring in the right players.

Meyer can do that.

And for the offense to continue to improve, Miller will need to continue to be the guy until he gets a stable of playmakers outside of the three he has right now: Corey Brown, Jake Stoneburner and Devin Smith.

There are no burners in the backfield, yet. But they are coming.

Meyer is already sending a message that his SEC way of doing thingsâ€"in terms of what types of players he wants and what style he is going to coachâ€"is coming to the Big Ten; other teams will either rise up to the challenge or sink to the back of the pack.

It's the foundation for a new era, and the Big Ten may never be the same again.

Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller won't let it.

Follow me on Twitter @bielik_tim for the latest college football news and updates.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cleveland Browns' 100 best all-time players: No. 74 -- Lin Houston (video) - Plain Dealer (blog)

lin-houston3.jpgIn an early 1950s photo, (bottom, left to right) Browns' coach Paul Brown, Dante Lavelli, Lin Houston, Frank Gatski and George Young, and (standing, left to right) Marion Motley, Otto Graham, Mac Speedie, Lou Groza and Bill Willis.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A countdown of the top 100 players in Cleveland Browns history. Players must have spent at least four seasons with the Browns. The ranking is based only on players' careers with the Browns.

No. 74, Lin Houston, guard, 1946-53

The Browns played in championship games in each of their first 10 seasons: winning all four All-America Football Conference title games from 1946-49 and National Football League championship contests in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

Lin Houston played guard for the Browns and coach Paul Brown in the first eight of those remarkable campaigns. Brown had been Houston's coach at Massillon High School and Ohio State.

Houston, even for the era he played in, wasn't especially big, at 6-0 and about 215 pounds. He excelled both as a run and pass blocker, though, due in large part to his technical precision and savvy.

The Browns won 87 regular season games, lost 12 and tied three during Houston's career. Despite being hampered by injuries, especially in his later seasons, Houston missed just four games.

Houston's brother, Jim, played for the Browns from 1960-72. During the 60s, he was among the NFL's premier outside linebackers.

(The Browns' all-time top 100 players so far)

Video: Lin Houston (62) is at right guard for Cleveland during action -- here mostly in the third quarter -- from the Browns' 17-7 championship game loss to the Detroit Lions on Dec. 28, 1952 in Cleveland:

Breaking Down the Cleveland Browns Missed Tackles That Led to 2 Bengals TDs - Bleacher Report

Though in many ways the Cleveland Browns dominated the Cincinnati Bengals in their Week 2 meeting, they ultimately fell to their division rivals, 34-27. 

This loss can be attributed specifically to two touchdowns the Browns gave up, one in the first quarter and another in the fourth. Without those two scores, it's almost certain Cleveland would have notched its first win of the season.

So let's take a look at what went wrong in those two scores and how the Browns can avoid making those mistakes in the future. Here's a quick hint: Make tackles.

Touchdown One: Adam Jones' 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, 1st Quarter

The punt return. One of the most routine plays in the NFL. However, when things go wrong, the result at best is a large return and the worst is a touchdown. The latter is what happened to the Browns on Sunday.

It starts out innocuous enough. Adam Jones catches the punt, and there's a member of the Browns coverage team there to tackle him, just as he should be.

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However, he misses the tackle. Jones is now free to head into heavy traffic.

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Linebacker Kaluka Maiava (or it may be offensive lineman Shaun Lauvao; it's hard to tell) has the next shot at taking Jones down. Fellow linebacker Craig Robertson is also unblocked if Maiava/Lauvao cannot make the stop.

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Robertson, however, finds him tied up with running back Chris Ogbonnaya, controlled by two Bengals defenders, and Maiava/Lauvao whiffs on his tackle. Another Browns player, however, is in front of Jones and could bring him down.

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Except he doesn't. Next up are Eric Hagg and the newly-freed Robertson and Ogbonnaya.

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Hagg gets a hand on Jones' foot, but ultimately does not make the tackle. Robertson and Ogbonnaya lag behind instead of putting on the jets to attempt a stop of their own. Tight end Alex Smith now enters the picture as another Brown who could stop Jones.

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Smith gets hung up by a Bengals blocker, however, and another Brown misses another tackle. Again, going for an arm tackle rather than putting his full force behind the stop.

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Finally Robertson sees his chance though there's a blocker keeping him from getting too close. Jones has made it nearly all the way through any would-be tacklers, but Smith has his eyes directly on him, in front of him, unblocked.

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Smith is there, and Robertson is closing in, and it appears that Jones is about to be tackled.

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However, Robertson dives and misses his tackle. Smith remains as a threat to bring him down, however.

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But of course, Smith whiffs on his tackle. To Ogbonnaya's credit, he's finally able to run in and attempt to catch up with Jones.

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But Jones has the speed and the momentum. Ogbonnaya cannot catch up, and just like that, the Bengals have found themselves up by a touchdown without their offense even taking the field.

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Touchdown Two: Andy Dalton's desperation pass to Andrew Hawkins for a 68-yard score, fourth quarter

Again, this passing play starts as innocuously as the punt return. It's a 3rd-and-10, at midfield, and it's clear that the Browns are hoping to bring pressure and either force a deep incompletion out of Andy Dalton or get a sack and stop the drive.

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Dalton is able to roll away from the pressure at the last second, however, and is able to keep the play alive. At first, it seems like maybe he'll just throw it away.

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But all that defensive pressure up front has left the downfield receivers single covered. It provides a good opportunity for Dalton to get the ball to speedy slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, and he connects. 

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Hawkins does the rest from here. He's being pursued by nickel corner Trevin Wade, and safety Eric Hagg is less than 10 yards away.

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It seems at first the duo will get him.

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However, Hawkins cuts to Wade's outside, gaining another step on him, while Bengals running back Brian Leonard makes quick work of Hagg on the block.

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Leonard also helps out against T.J. Ward, the next Brown to try to stop Hawkins; he has a partial block, while Ward also misses a tackle.

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Buster Skrine is the last man with a chance keep Hawkins from scoring; he fails, and thus, Hawkins gives the Bengals a touchdown and a 31-17 lead.

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These two touchdowns highlight two different problems for the Browns. One is tackling. Arm tackling has always been a problem for Cleveland, as are missed tackles. Never is this more evident in a kick or punt returned for a touchdown.

Diving arm tackles, rather than an attempt to get physical, cost the Browns the stop. Further, kick and punt coverage, despite the seeming chaos, is a highly-choreographed system of movements. The goal is for members of the coverage team to stay in their respective lanes. 

Hi-res-131642620_crop_exactDon't just dive; tackle.
Bob Levey/Getty Images

That way, no one gets distracted when a returner weaves in and out of would-be tacklers. If everyone stays in their lane, the return man will generally come to them, making it easier to tackle him. However, the Browns' coverage unit, in this case, was so flustered by how far out Jones was able to take the ball that they forgot the fundamentals of their positions and tried to chase him down for the stop.

This approach rarely works and is how teams generally get burned for touchdowns from a kick or punt return. The Browns need to return to their special teams fundamentals and remember to not panic. Return coverage shouldn't be a game of pursuit, but of making the tackle that comes to you.

The Hawkins touchdown, in contrast, is more of a lucky break for the Bengals than it is an example of the Browns defense breaking down. But there is a major lesson to be learned from it.

Hi-res-6584116_crop_exactThe danger when bringing pressure on a quarterback is if he can get loose and make a play; there are few defenders downfield.
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

It's the danger of pressuring a quarterback without accounting for the possibility he can get the ball out of his hands. The Browns practically bring the house on this third down, but only one defender has a chance to get his hands on Dalton.

While the rest of the defense tries to push forward, Dalton rolls out, and before the Browns' remaining defenders have time to react, the ball is in Hawkins' hands, and the speedy receiver, along with some blocking assistance, scores a touchdown.

The Browns need to be more aware when sending a pass rush or throw fewer defenders into the mix to allow the field to be adequately covered. This will help mitigate the damage done if the pressured quarterback is able to complete a pass.

Without committing these two errors on Sunday, it's quite possible Cleveland could have defeated the Bengals. At least as long as they don't allow these mistakes to repeat this season, they can chalk it up to a painful, but necessary, learning experience.

Cleveland Indians PM links: The chances for each player's return; player ... - Plain Dealer (blog)

grady-sizemore.jpgIndians' outfielder Grady Sizemore, following knee and back surgeries, has not played this season. Once the season is complete, he will have sat out 438 games over the last four years.

CLEVELAND, OHIO -- The Cleveland Indians do have something to play for as the season winds down.

It's just not what they or their fans wanted.

The Indians, in fact, even have a "magic number." It's 15. Any combination of 15 wins and/or Minnesota Twins' losses and the Tribe will clinch fourth place in the American League Central Division, and finish ahead of a Twins' team that would be fifth and last.

That's what's at stake beginning tonight, when the Indians (61-86) host the Twins (60-87) to begin a three-game series.

Plain Dealer and cleveland.com Indians coverage includes Paul Hoynes' story on reliever Esmil Rogers, who has pitched well for the Indians since they acquired him from the Colorado Rockies on June 13; Hoynes' Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins: On Deck; his story on the competition between current Indians' radio flagship station WTAM AM/1100 and WKRK FM/92.3 to broadcast Indians' games beginning next season; and more.

The Indians have a 35-68 record since May 24, and they are 11-37 since July 26. At that point, they were 26-18 and in first place in the Central Division, leading the Chicago White Sox by 3 1/2 games. Many observers, though, believed the Indians' roster was lacking in talent, and that there was little if any immediate help available in the farm system. And, there were 118 games remaining.

The Indians' collapse, combined with the obvious talent shortage, means that the 2013 roster could be much different than the current one.

Jim Ingraham, writing for the News-Herald and Lorain Morning Journal, designates a percentage chance of each current Indian being on the 40-man roster next season.

A sample of Ingraham's opinions:

Ubaldo Jimenez (90) â€" The Indians hold $5.75 million club option with a $1 million buyout. It’s either pick up that option or take the PR hit by publicly acknowledging another colossally failed trade.

Chris Perez (50) â€" Even if he wasn’t a loose cannon, he would be still be a prime trade piece because he’s one of the only Indians who would bring something of value back in a trade. He’s also arbitration eligible, which means a huge raise, which always scares the Indians.

Travis Hafner (10) â€"
His parting gift: a check for $2.75 million, the buyout on his $13 million club option.

Shin-Soo Choo (30) â€" A free agent after next season, he will be traded. The only question is when.

Grady Sizemore (40) â€" The ultimate gamer, but it’s time for the Indians to respectfully cut bait.

Indians story links

Ranking the players on the 2012 Eastern League champion Akron Aeros, the Indians' Class AA team. (By Jim Piascik, Indians Prospect Insider)

More on what to do with the Indians' roster. (By Jordan Bastian, mlblogs.com)

A preview of the Indians-Twins series. (By Brian Heise, Wahoo's on First)

Lonnie Chisenhall is staking claim to be the Indians' starting third baseman next season. (By Sheldon Ocker, Akron Beacon Journal)

The Indians' wasted off-season, between 2011 and 2012, specifically at first base. (Let's Go Tribe)

Indians-Twins preview, with David Huff making his first start of the season for the Tribe. (By Christian Corona, MLB.com)

Indians' starting pitcher Zach McAllister leads the major leagues with 19 unearned runs allowed. (By Lewie Pollis, Wahoo's on First)

Some individual player reasons for optimism, despite the lousy 2012 season. (By Adam McGavin, Indians Prospect Insider)

The Indians' fade from contention was swift, even somewhat historic. (By Jordan Bastian, MLB.com)

The three Indians who might be most valuable to the team in a trade -- a slideshow. (Bleacher Report)

Ohio State Buckeyes in the NFL - Yahoo! Sports

Ohio State University has a long list of players that have made it to the NFL. With greats such as wide receivers Joey Galloway and Cris Carter as well as Mike Vrabel and Orlando Pace, it's easy to see why Ohio State is known for producing great NFL talent.

Currently, there are 35 former Buckeyes playing in the NFL, with the hope that they too will be considered among the list of Buckeyes who have excelled in the NFL.

Top Buckeyes Currently in the NFL

Antoine Winfield: Currently with the Minnesota Vikings, Winfield stared at Ohio State where he would become one of the greatest cornerbacks in Ohio State history, lettering four times from 1995 to 1998 and becoming a Jim Thorpe Award winner. Winfield began his career with the Buffalo Bills and has continued his success in the NFL with the Vikings, being named a three-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 2008 at the age of 31. He was ranked as the NFL's 31st best player by SI in 2007.

Nick Mangold: On pace to become one of the greatest NFL centers to ever play, Nick Mangold helped Ohio State win a national championship in 2002 and three consecutive bowl games after that. Drafted by the New York Jets in the first round of the 2006 draft, Mangold has been elected to the Pro Bowl four times in his career, and he has been selected as an All-Pro three times. He has never missed a game in his NFL career.

James Laurinaitis: James Laurinaitis would rank as one of the best Buckeyes in history, being selected as a consensus All-American three years in a row from 2006 to 2008. Other awards that Laurinaitis won while in college include the Nagurski Trophy, Dick Butkus Award, Lambert Award, and the Lott Trophy. After being selected in the second round by the St. Louis Rams in 2009, James has recorded 376 tackles along with eight sacks and five interceptions in just three seasons.

More Buckeyes in the NFL

Mike Adams, OT, St. Louis Rams

Will Allen, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

Jake Ballard, TE, New England Patriots

Alex Boone, OT, San Francisco 49ers

Michael Brewster, C, Jacksonville Jaguars

Nate Clements, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Kurt Coleman, S, Philadelphia Eagles

Jim Cordle, C, New York Giants

Nate Ebner, DB, New England Patriots

Chris Gamble, CB, Carolina Panthers

Ted Ginn, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins

Ben Hartsock, TE, Carolina Panthers

Cameron Heyward, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets

Michael Jenkins, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Malcolm Jenkins, S, New Orleans Saints

Jake Mcquaide, LS, St. Louis Rams

Mike Nugent, K, Cincinnati Bengals

Ryan Pickett, DE, Green Bay Packers

DeVier Posey, WR, Houston Texans

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders

Brain Rolle, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

Brandon Saine, RB, Green Bay Packers

Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Chicago Bears

Rob Sims, OG, Detroit Lions

Will Smith, DE, New Orleans Saints

Austin Spitler, LB, Miami Dolphins

Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Donte Whitner, S, San Francisco 49ers

Sources:

http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/sports/m-footbl/osu-m-footbl-body.html

http://www.nfl.com

Andrew Smith is an Ohio State graduate and fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State Buckeyes PM links: Jordan Hall boosts running game; not asking ... - Plain Dealer (blog)

jordan-hall.jpgOhio State running back Jordan Hall (7) made his first appearance of the season on Saturday during the Buckeyes' 35-28 win over California.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Ohio State Buckeyes conclude the non-league portion of their schedule on Saturday, when they face the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Ohio State is 3-0, including Saturday's tense 35-28 win over California's Golden Bears. UAB's Blazers are 0-2, losing to Troy, 39-29, and then at No. 7 South Carolina, 49-6, on Saturday.

Plain Dealer and cleveland.com Ohio State coverage includes Doug Lesmerises' story that the Buckeyes are looking for quarterback Braxton Miller to make more big plays in the passing game; Lesmerises' Ohio State Insider, focusing on how coach Urban Meyer is looking for the Buckeyes to improve their tackling; a fans' poll on the Ohio State-UAB game; and more.

Running back Jordan Hall made his first appearance of the season against California. His return was especially important because back Carlos Hyde was sidelined with a knee injury. There's a good chance Hyde will not be ready for the UAB game.

Hall, before suffering a severe cut on a foot during the summer, was slated to be the Buckeyes' No. 1 tailback.

Austin Ward writes about Hall for BuckeyeNation on ESPN.com:

Understandably lacking crispness in his first outing since offseason foot surgery, Hall still came off the disabled list to lead the Buckeyes with 87 yards rushing. He combined well with Miller on the option, and the rushing attack should only improve as Hall gets acclimated to the offense moving forward.

Buckeyes story links

Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman tries to not ask too much of quarterback Braxton Miller. (By Brandon Castel, the-ozone.net)

The Buckeyes are working to improve on the poor tackling that helped California total more than 500 yards of offense. (By Austin Ward, BuckeyeNation ESPN.com)

Cornerback Bradley Roby played with a shoulder injury against California. (By Tony Gerdeman, the-ozone.net)

Video -- Buckeyes' receiver Jake Stoneburner talks about adjusting to Urban Meyer's offense and about the improvement shown by the team's receivers. (ESPN.com)

Braxton Miller's ability to run with the football causes problems for opposing coaches. And, it causes his coaches the concern that they don't run him more than they should. (By Zac Jackson, foxsportsohio.com)

Urban Meyer says improvement is needed from the Buckeyes' defense, which gave up 512 yards to California during the Buckeyes' 35-28 win last Saturday over the Golden Bears. (By John Kampf, News-Herald and lorain Morning Journal)

Braxton Miller is compiling statistics worthy of Heisman Trophy consideration, but Urban Meyer says it's too soon for that kind of talk. (By Brandon Castel, the-ozone.net)

Things to know about Saturday's UAB at Ohio State game. (By Alex Kay, Bleacher Report)