Thursday, July 30, 2009

After Sleeping on it, I'm still angry, and Browns Preview: Secondary

The Dolan family may honestly be the worst owners in sports. If you want proof outside of Cleveland, look at the New York Knicks organization (owned by the Dolans, well, the brother of the Indians Dolan but the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree...). Why would LeBron want to play for such poor ownership? Think about that one all you LeBron to NY conspiracy theorists. Today Victor Martinez is on the trading block, and tomorrow he'll likely be moved, probably for table scraps. The Indians aren't going to contend now, or ever again under this ownership. What's the worst part of it all? Wedge and Shapiro will likely stay! Why would the Dolans pay Wedge to stay at home?

Fact is we're stuck with Shapiro's mediocrity and Wedge's horrific managing style for the forseeable future. We'll constantly be looking towards the future. We'll never keep our TRUE superstar players. Love Grady Sizemore? Obsess over him now, ladies. He won't be with us down the line. We will always be dealing for prospects and will never make that ballsy move to put us over the top to win a championship. Sorry, Dolans and Shapiro, I don't call acquiring Kenny Lofton in 2007 a ballsy, championship caliber move. He sold tickets and had several clutch hits, but he was NOT a championship cornerstone player that the REAL contenders make moves to acquire.

After Martinez is dealt, you can essentially put a torch to Regressive Field, because it won't be needed for a Minor League team when there's a Minor League stadium in Eastlake waiting for them...they will not receive a nickel of my money anymore unless they choose to bring back nickel beer night.

BROWNS SEASON PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE BACKS

After playing like swiss-cheese in 2008, I honestly believe this is a group that will surprise in '09. Why? Our starting corners are entering their third year, we acquired a safety who can actually cover, and we collected a metric ton of QUALITY depth to our secondary this season. What hurt us in 2008 was the fact that beyond our starting corners, we had zero depth and had to rely on Terry Cousins (aka burnt toast) to cover 3rd receivers...needless to say he couldn't cover me right after waking up from a nap. Read on...

Cornerback:

Eric Wright - Coming into his third year, has shown flashes of brilliance and growing pains at the same time. Year three is the breakout year for most players, we shall see how he improves. I like his athleticism and speed but question his ball instincts.

Brandon McDonald - see above, except BMac is a more "hit or miss" player. He shows great instinct towards the ball (meaning more INT's and knocked down passes) but tends to be burned more than Wright is. Once again, year three is pivotal.

Roderick Hood - MAJOR acquisiton, especially if he plays the nickelback role. Thrived as a nickel in Philly and has been decent as a starter in Arizona. If he's put into a position where he can thrive again, this will be HUGE for the Browns defense in passing situations...more important than people think.

Dimeback: Toss up between Coye Francies, Don Carey, Corey Ivy and Hank Poteat...may the best man win. I hope it's one of the rookies (Francies and Carey) because that may mean we found a potential core player.

Safety:

Abram Elam - huge acquisition to replace Sean Jones. Jones struggled in 2007 and 2008 despite a monster 2006 campaign. He couldn't cover average receiving tight ends and was slower to react to the ball. Elam can, indeed, cover and cover well. He's shown effectiveness in blitzing packages and can lay the wood when necessary. May be a surprise player who Eric Mangini liked with the Jets.

Brodney Pool - pivotal year for him. Played better as the strong safety in place of Sean Jones when Jones was injured. Seems to struggle adapting to the free safety position. Hopefully he plays more strong than free. Has made plays and struggled. He is what he is: average.

Mike Adams - a good backup and special teamer. That's basically it.


Next week: Training camp begins! And my evaluation of the coaching staff and quarterbacks...and likely more angry ranting on the Indians.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cleveland, welcome to Minor League Baseball

Before I start, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I feel horrible for those in the Indians organization who are first-class and are the best in the business at what they do and have no control over the personnel decisions of the incompetent baseball operations side of the company. Needless to say, the ownership, GM, scouting department and manager are NOT part of that group! If you’ve been following my tweets today (and if you’re on Facebook, you’re forced to, sorry), I like the rest of the world am FURIOUS about this trade. Absolutely furious. What did I tell you a week ago when Betancourt was traded? SALARY DUMP. It’s happened.

And you know what? The Dolan family doesn’t have the spine to face the fans and explain it. Mark Shapiro may not be half the GM that he was hyped up to be, but I guarantee you had Shapiro had more trading leverage (aka had the Dolans not held him at gunpoint and told him “dump the salary”) we would have received more from this horribly lopsided trade. Last season we traded CC Sabathia and we received two supposedly “superstar prospects.” Sabathia was at the end of his contract. Cliff Lee has an entire season left on his contract and we couldn’t receive anything close to what we received for Sabathia! Something stinks here, and I believe the Indians didn’t have the trading leverage they had last season because ownership sabotaged it!

If the Indians dare blame “poor attendance” as the reason why we traded Lee (and eventually Martinez, folks, it’s going to happen), we the City of Cleveland should bring torches to Regressive Field (thank you Bill Livingston, have to give credit where credit is due) and demand the Dolans sell the team. We have traded two Cy Young Award winners, two reasons to come to the ballpark. We’re going to trade our all-star catcher and unquestioned leader of the team. What is there for us to see? Grady Sizemore? I don’t care! I want a WINNING PRODUCT. You have to spend money to make money! If the Indians are too cheap to invest in the payroll, why should we the fans invest our time, energy and money into a subpar product? We shouldn’t! We should BOYCOTT THE CLEVELAND INDIANS.

You can’t call us “fair-weather fans” for jumping off the bandwagon, don’t give me that BS. The Indians can have as many bobblehead and fireworks nights as they want, but unless they have SUPERSTARS on this roster, we won’t, and shouldn’t, attend the games. Why should we pay $10 for parking, outrageous prices for food and $7 for a beer? It’s a joke! Pathetic. We traded players for prospects who will become players who will be traded for prospects who will become players traded for prospectsits a never ending cycle and we shouldnt stand for it! Makes me wonder what wonderful prospects well receive for Victor Martinez! Dolans, you've taken a franchise that was one of the top franchises of the '90's and turned it into a laughingstock. I'd tell you where you can go but this is a family blog so I can't.

Thank GOD Browns training camp starts on Saturday! Despite the lack of success, at least the Browns try to win by any means necessary. Go Browns.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Indians Clone is Gone, and Browns Position Preview: Linebackers

ABOUT THE GARKO TRADE...

I'm not happy. And it's not because he was an All-Star or the fact that he was the team party animal (watch the celebrations after winning the Central Division and the Division series in 2007...he was the beer crusher), it was because some people say I resemble him when I wear baseball clothes!

Ok, in all seriousness, I liked him in 2007 because it seemed like he always hit well in the clutch. I'm more upset that he was only worth a Single A prospect. Come on, Casey Blake was worth heralded prospect Carlos Santana...you honestly are telling me a younger player who hits for a decent average is worth less? I think it was a salary dump once again (he's due arbitration next year and his price will go up from his current $400k salary). Oh Dolans, you make me SO happy...

BROWNS PREVIEW: LINEBACKERS

I've been a beacon of optimism in my assessment of the Browns position previews the past couple weeks. This is the day where I'm not so optimistic but I do have some reasons to hope for an improvement in the linebacking core in 2009, more specifically due to a change in scheme, added depth and youth being served. Here's a look at the 2009 Browns Linebackers...

ILB:

D'Qwell Jackson - Our best linebacker and the current leader of our defense. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Mangini likes him, Rob Ryan likes him, but too many times I saw him be washed out of a play due to his lack of size. How much of that was because the most overrated Cleveland linebacker in the world was playing next to him? (that man would be Andra Davis) How much will he improve with Eric Barton next to him and Kenyon Coleman in front of him? I don't know. I remain very reserved to see if DQ is a true defensive leader or a #2 Inside Linebacker who would thrive if a true franchise inside linebacker played next to him.

Eric Barton - Upgrade from Andra Davis, that I can assure you. How much of an upgrade? I don't know. I don't know how much our run defense will improve with him replacing Andra Davis. What I DO know is he is a solid, but not spectacular player. I don't know if that's enough or not.

OLB:

Kamerion Wimbley - Every night I pray to Rob Ryan to move Kam around and let him rush from various places on the football field. He lacks the power to be a true bullrusher to counter his speed rush move. I believe he can still succeed if he is rushed from different angles and different positions. I also believe he needs more productive passrushers from the D-Line and Inside Linebacker positions to thrive. For the past couple seasons, Browns brass talked about having a rusher opposite of Wimbley to help him out against facing double teams. Is that really true, or does he need help from the guys both in front and next to him (AND on the opposite side, thus creating a productive system)? I don't know. But I wonder about his productivity because neither DQ nor Barton are much of passrush Inside Linebackers. I'm betting against Kam's potential being unlocked, and that worries me as a Browns fan dying for a pass rush.

Alex Hall - Notice I mentioned Hall instead of David Bowens. I hope it's Hall who wins the job because we will be in trouble if Bowens is a starter. Hall showed phenomenal potential last season before Romeo Crennel superglued his butt to the bench in favor of Old Man McGinest despite collecting three sacks in three games. He's one year stronger, one year more experienced, one year bigger. He was an undersized project who still got to the QB. That intrigues me because I know he's bigger, faster, stronger this year. He may be the breakout player we don't expect.

Utility Linebackers:

Beau Bell - My roommate once said he was "convinced he's good" despite watching no film on him. I'm not convinced about anything concerning Beau Bell. All the reports say he's slow to pick up the 3-4 defense and slow to pick up the scheme. That's not good. His football IQ is in question as well, and Mangini loves football-smart players. I think he may be cut.

Leon Williams - I've seen enough. Goodbye.

David Bowens - One of Mangini's trusted ex-Jets. He'll play in situational downs and give starters a breather. He's a professional, that's about all you can say. Expect some productivity but no miracles.

Kalula Maiava - He'll likely play special teams to start out but I hope I'm surprised. Played on a loaded USC Defense but showed a fantastic nose for the ball despite flying under the radar. I believe he replaces the Leon Williams/Beau Bell combo.

I know there was an Undrafted Rookie whose name escapes me but impressed me on film, he played for a D1-AA school though. He'll have to show me before I say anything about him.

Tomorrow I'll look at what will hopefully be a surprise unit for the Browns defense: the secondary. There's depth in that unit this season that wasn't there last season.

IN CLOSING: Shaq was the best guest host WWE has ever had. He outshined most of the WWE roster. That's how pathetic today's WWE product is and I only watch it as a critic today. How I miss the days of The Rock and Stone Cold...

P.S. Roda reports on his Twitter that Brady Quinn is in training camp with the rookies while Derek Anderson is nowhere to be found. Great way to endear yourself to your coach, Derek. I know you have a laser arm and love to golf but shouldn't you be working on your ability to hit the 3-yard short pass instead of your par 3 hole in one?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Browns Position Preview: Defensive Line

FULL DISCLOSURE: I liked the Browns defensive line going into last season. We all know how that turned out.

HOWEVER, there's always an explanation and my explanation is this: We had solid starters and a decent rotational player, but once injuries to Corey Williams (shoulder) and Robaire Smith (achilles) occurred, we were out of luck. Shaun Smith was forced into a starting role, eliminating any of our defensive line depth. "Stud" players such as Santonio Thomas ended up in our rotation and the results were horrendous. This year it doesn't figure to be the case, here's a look...

1) Shaun Rogers, NT - Probably the best nosetackle in the game. Was amazing for us last season, too bad the rest of the line disappointed. I expect Eric Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to unleash Rogers in ways that Romeo Crennel never thought possible.

2) Corey Williams, DE - struggled adapting to a 3-4 scheme last season but to be fair struggled with a shoulder injury since training camp. Never really had a chance to play well. Could be a huge surprise for the Browns this season if the shoulder really was an issue, I also expect Rob Ryan to use Williams in different spots on the defensive line (especially when lined up in the 46 package).

3) Kenyon Coleman, DE - came in the draft day trade with the Jets. Supposedly very stout against the run but does not provide much of a passrush. He'll likely come out on 3rd downs, especially if we use a 4 man front on 3rd downs. If he comes as advertised, the defense is that much better against the run.

4) Robaire Smith, DE - suffered a major injury last year and we can only hope he can return to 2007 form where he was a solid player for our defense. If healthy, can be a starter or an excellent, excellent rotational player with zero dropoff in production off the bench.

5) Shaun Smith, DT - He needs to shape up, or ship out. Too mouthy for my tastes, but plays well as a backup nose tackle. Our defense suffered when he was forced to start and thus our rotation depth was non-existent.

6) CJ Mosley, DE/DT - Is what he is: a backup who's better than our backups from last season. Don't expect miracles but don't expect the gigantic dropoff from last season's backups.

7) Ahtyba Rubin, NT - In his 2nd year, showed some promise as a rookie in 2008 but was far too green to be relied on. Here's hoping Mangini and Co. are better at developing talent. Could make Shaun Smith expendable if he steps up to the plate, but I'm not counting on it.

I counted five quality defensive line players on this unit coming into training camp. In 2008, that number was four when completely healthy, and one player (Williams) played hurt all season while another (R. Smith) was hurt early on. This defensive line could surprise this season. I'd say it's comparable to the Steelers and Ravens' defensive lines on paper, but we won't know until we see the proof on the field.

I do know this: We're deeper. And deeper is much, MUCH better and reassuring to me.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's Talk Golf

More specifically your golf game. This was a topic of discussion this past weekend over some Long Islands at the awesome Cadillac Ranch in glorious downtown Cleveland, OH. On vacation I went to the driving range daily for about an hour and worked on my golf game. It has me addicted and wanting to play more often.

The problem? I don't own a set of clubs, and my dad is left handed (I'm right handed). I suppose I could use my mom's clubs, but do I really want to be seen on the golf course using 25-year old Titlette Women's clubs that have been collecting dust in the shed for the past 8 years? I don't think so. I also have a horrible slicing problem no matter what I do to correct it (it's like hitting a home run to right field), so I want a set of clubs that has my tee-offs straight so I can hit the fairway consistently.

That leads me to square-head drivers. I'm obsessed with learning more about these wonderclubs. Apparently the ball travels further and straighter even with a poor swing. I'm also intrigued by these new so-called hybrid clubs that are on the market these days (a cross between iron and wood clubs). They're easier to use than lower-numbered irons and allow you to use the clubs in the rough (a near impossibility with traditional woods).

This brings me to another problem: cost. Let's face it, I'm still in college and until I have a job lined up (hopefully I'll have one by the end of this month but who knows?). The idea of going out and buying a set of top of the line Nike drivers, hybrids, irons and a putter is about as outrageous as the idea of the Bengals ever winning a Superbowl. So, I've been investigating so-called "clones." They're off-brand models that have the same high quality as the name brands but lower prices because they don't spend money doing R&D, advertising and bidding for golfers' endorsements. I'm ok with buying knock-offs, I don't need the brand name if the performance is there (and if you don't feel this way, you must love being ripped off because chances are you're not on the PGA Tour, the cost/benefit analysis definitely favors buying the clones unless you're a very serious golfer). Long story short, I'm looking for a solid set of clubs, and hoping I find them.

Until then, I'll see you at the driving range.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Browns Position Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends, and the Eternal Doom Known as the Cleveland Indians

Folks, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I know all about "innocent until proven guilty." I know that my opinion of Ben Rapistberger is not going to determine in a courtroom whether or not he is innocent or guilty. But, this is MY courtroom and in my courtroom he's guilty. Call me a bitter, angry Browns fan who has had years taken off of his life over the stress caused by Ben if you wish. I'm simply taking the woman's side in this male driven society! (Yeah...right...you had me pegged at "angry Browns fan" no matter what my so-called excuse is...)

ABOUT THE INDIANS...

Rafael Betancourt was traded today. We received a Single A prospect in return. $5 million was taken off the books in 2010 because of the trade. Don't be surprised if Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez are next. Why? Two words: SALARY DUMP. Say it with me again: SALARY DUMP. The 2010 payroll is now down to $71 million, and trading Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez would slash an additional $20 million off the payroll.

Now, you baseball nerds will likely drool over the prospects the Indians receive in return. I won't. To me it's simply a sign of the Dolans tightening their belts, blaming "poor attendance" as the reason why they're doing it, blaming the fans for not coming out en masse to see a poor baseball team. What a crock. It's a crying shame because the other aspects of the organization are first class and there are great people who work for the Indians. The baseball operations, however? It's becoming harder and harder to deal with as a fan. 2010 will be a joke for the Indians if Martinez and Lee are gone. They'll average 5,000 a night in 2010 without any stars on the team, and we're back to where we were in 2003.

BROWNS WIDE RECEIVERS

On paper this is a major weakness for the 2009 Browns offense, moreso than the lack of depth at runningback. Braylon Edwards is coming off a traumatic year, Donte Stallworth may never play in the NFL again (and certainly won't in Brown and Orange), Joe Jurevicius' knee is ripped to shreds and Kellen Winslow is a Buccaneer. Who, pray will Brady Quinn (yes I said Brady Quinn) throw to in 2009? Better targets than 2008, that's who, and here's why: In 2008, Braylon was hurt/mentally traumatized, Donte Stallworth was a non-factor, and beyond that we had absolutely Z-E-R-O receivers worth a damn on the roster. While the 2009 receivers beyond Braylon are not world beaters, the Browns are definitely deeper at receiver. Here's a look...

1) Braylon Edwards - coming off of a horrific year, Braylon was sabotaged out of the gate by his buddy Donte Stallworth cleating his achilles as he was running wind sprints barefoot. Why Romeo Crennel allowed Braylon to run around without cleats is beyond me, but that's why he's not with us anymore. Anyway, there's a major, MAJOR reason to believe Edwards is going to have a monster year in 2009.

Two words: Contract Year. He hits the free agent market in 2010 if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is not reached. If he has another year like 2008, he will lose millions on the free agent market, as much as $10 million extra in guaranteed money. Braylon has all the ability in the world to prove people wrong, and motivated by that desire, and $$$, he will tee off on defensive backs in 2009. Trust me, Braylon Edwards is going to be an absolute monster this year.

2) Brian Robiskie - Rookie, yes, but also NFL-ready, polished rookie. He may not be an absolute burner, but he does all the things you expect out of a wide receiver already and his game will only improve with experience. People say he lacks upside, I call BS. There's no substitute for NFL coaching at the NFL level receiving NFL repetitions against other NFL players. 'Biskie is going to have to step his game up, and he's been doing all the right things in order to improve. I predict he leads all rookies in receptions this year and adapts to the NFL game quickly.

3) Mike Furrey - A lesser known player who was injured in 2008. 31 years old but still has gas left in the tank. Should be adequate as the slot receiver in this offense. He had a 1,000 yard season in 2006 playing for the Detroit Lions. He is what he is: a target. Nothing special here but he does his job. In this offense, that's all you really need.

4) Mohamed Massaquoi - Rookie, like Robiskie. He will be slower to adapt to the NFL game. Starting out as the #4 receiver would be a nice way to learn. May challenge for the #3 job, and it would be fantastic if he won the job because he would have fought off a solid pro in Furrey in order to do it. This is the Mangini way of improving rookies and young players: learn from the vets and beat them in order to move up the depth chart. It wasn't this way under Romeo Crennel because veterans were either well entrenched in their jobs, or young players had jobs merely handed to them.

5) David Patten - I think he'll be a surprise cut at the end of training camp in favor of a younger player. But, he's another professional who has been in the league and does his job. He'll be fine at the #4 or #5 receiver position, but I don't want him any higher up the depth chart than that.

Tight Ends:

Many fans are angry/downright pissed that Kellen Winslow was traded. Football-wise people agree that it was a good trade. Why? Briefly, he couldn't run block, his knee is degenerating and will be lucky to be in the league 2 years from now, he was not smart and was not a team guy. The tight end group is not atrocious but it's not spectacular either. Here we go...

1) Robert Royal - What we lose in the passing game from Kellen Winslow, we gain in the blocking and discipline game with Royal. He's another one of those lunchpale guys who does his job and is a better than average blocker.

2) Steve Heiden - See: Robert Royal. They're made in the same mold. They're really 1 and 1a if you ask me.

3) Martin Rucker - The pass-catching tight end of the group. I'm hoping, praying he learns to block and moves up the depth chart because it would open up opportunities for the passing game, but I'm not holding my breath on any Phil Savage-picked players who aren't starting yet.

Next week: The defense. And if you're wondering why I haven't mentioned the QB position, there's a perfectly logical reasoning behind it that I'll explain at the end of this series.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Browns Position Preview: Runningbacks

Before I start, a quick comment on Worthlessberger: It's a disgrace that ESPN is not reporting it and is trying to sweep the scandal under the rug. It's very clear that ESPN wants to preserve one of their ratings cows and not paint him in a bad light. I'm not surprised, they did the same thing with Michael Vick in 2007 before the outcry became too loud to ignore (and higher ratings came from the resulting scandal). ESPN should be embarassed and ashamed. Anyway, here's some Browns talk...

POSITION PREVIEW: RUNNINGBACKS

On the surface this appears to be a weak link for the Browns compared to the rest of the North (ok, at least the Steelers and Ravens, who appear to be 3 deep at the position). Jamal Lewis is on the wrong side of 30, Jerome Harrison hasn't done much and James Davis is a late round rookie. That's the pessimist/national media viewpoint. Here's the logical football viewpoint:

Runningbacks grow on trees, and are largely dependent on their offensive lines. Because the offensive line is markedly better this season, the running game will be as well.

Yes, Jamal Lewis was slowed by an ankle injury last season. Yes, he wasn't as effective as he was in 2007. But, neither was the offensive line at run blocking. I think Jamal realizes his days are numbered and will try to go out with a bang this season before calling it a career, just a hunch. He's still a load to bring down and behind an improved run blocking offensive line, should have holes to really gain steam through. (Think Jerome Bettis in the twilight of his career, as much as it pains me to say)

Jerome Harrison has flashed potential since he was a rookie. However, Romeo Crennel used him sparingly for whatever reason. As a fan, it frustrated me when he did not get the ball more because all he did was produce. I hope and pray that Eric Mangini uses his talents to his full potential, because I think he can be an impact player in crucial situations for this offense in 2009.

James Davis, the rookie. I talked about him on Monday and I can't wait to see him in the preseason. In his tapes he shows a great burst through the hole and the ability to see the one-cut and move upfield. He does not have home run speed but home run speed is overrated when compared to vision and getting upfield (see: Reggie Bush is a perfect example of speed and no vision). No one knows how he'll translate into the NFL, but if I had to hedge my bets I'd imagine that the Browns got a steal in round 6.

Few are putting much faith in the Browns' running game this season, I can tell you right now it will not be a hinderance for the offense this coming season. It may not be league leading, but it will certainly be an effective ground game.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

At Least My QB Isn't an Alleged Rapist, and Browns Position Preview: Offensive Line

Oh yeah, I said it. What an interesting 24 hours in the sports world, and ESPN is doing its best to sweep it under the rug until the noise from alternative media (aka profootballtalk.com) becomes so loud that they HAVE to acknowledge it. Why am I not surprised? They did the same for Michael Vick until PFT made such noise that they couldn't ignore it anymore.

If you haven't been following the sports world the past 24 hours, or you're just an ESPN blind sheep, you may have heard that Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, a man I completely, utterly despise and hope falls off a cliff, has been charged in a civil suit for alleged sexual assault. Here are the details per PFT...


Now, most of the media is going to wait and see on this topic and will not be quick to condemn Roethlisberger. BUT, this Steeler-hating writer is going to condemn away!

This report does not surprise me one bit and falls in line exactly with everything I've heard second hand about Big Ben. Yep, that sounds exactly like the leader I want on my football team! I hope they throw the book at him. I hope it becomes such a distraction that it ruins the Steelers' 2009 season. Couldn't happen to a nicer human being. You reap what you sow.

NOW TO THE TEAM THAT MATTERS TO ME, THE BROWNS:

More specifically, the Cleveland Browns 2009 Offensive Line

This is the unit that especially has me pointing toward optimism in the 2009 season, and it all starts with what we did in the draft, free agency and Mangini's new philosophy for the offensive line. This line is going to be built to punish opposing front-sevens, and on paper it looks like one of the top run blocking lines in the NFL, and one of the best pass-blocking lines on the left side (the most important side of the line). The line is so important because I'm a BIG believer that you can put an average runningback behind a good offensive line and he will perform admirably, the perfect example being Thomas Jones in 2008. Here's my projected starting 5 from left to right...

Left Tackle: Joe Thomas - Already a two-time Pro Bowler in his young, two year career...he is only going to improve the more he learns the nuances of the game and becomes a wiley veteran. Look out, he's a legitimate future Hall of Fame candidate if he stays healthy for the bulk of his career. There's not much to write about this position because he is what he is: spectacular.

Left Guard: Eric Steinbach - May be the best guard in the NFL to never make a Pro Bowl. He's outstanding in pass protection and solid in run blocking...why should he improve this year? Mangini's making him gain weight to improve in his run blocking. This could be his first Pro Bowl year. He and Thomas were already an outstanding duo and are only going to improve given Steinbach's added bulk and the addition of the man to his right who will only make him better, and that leads me to...

Center: Alex Mack - Yes, he's a rookie. Yes, he plays in the AFC North where he has to face Haloti Ngata and Casey Hamption four times a year. But, that's why we drafted him. He's outstanding mentally, meaning he's a fast learner and should have a shorter learning curve adapting to the NFL. He's big, strong and sound fundamentally. He's a rookie, but he's a rookie that's projected to "safely pan out." He's an immediate upgrade over aging, finesse center Hank Fraley (a man I admire for his hard work and dedication, but there's not much tread left in the tires). Playing next to Steinbach and the man to his right who I'll name next will mean he will not be forced to help out a struggling player next to him, and if Mack should have some growing pains, the guards will easily be able to help him out due to their skills. I LOVED this pick when most everyone I know hated it, and you're going to see why when Jamal Lewis finds the fountain of youth this season.

Right Guard: Ryan Tucker - This is where the line starts to become questionable. The only question to me concerning Tuck is his age and health. In 2007, the running game came to life when he played right guard and the Browns charged to a 10-6 season. He was injured in 2008. 2009? Who knows. If Tucker can play well for one more season, the Browns will have a top 5 run blocking offensive line. You can take that to the bank. Plus, Tucker will improve in pass protection by changing positions. As a former right tackle, he can handle passrushers and is strong enough to handle defensive tackles, and because he's a former right tackle, any diminished skills will be masked due to the switch to guard, where passrushers are generally slower.

Right Tackle: Floyd Womack/John St. Clair - This one is a toss up to me because I know very little about either one. This will clearly be the weakest link of the line, but hey, 4 out of 5 ain't bad, right? Neither guy is spectacular or even good for that matter, but even average will suffice since Kevin Shaffer was merely average at best for the Browns' 2007 league-leading pass blocking line. Playing next to a solid guard like Tucker will help mask either one's deficiencies.

This sounds like a very optimistic outlook for a team that went 4-12 last year, but the offensive line is clearly the strength of the organization. Future position previews won't be as rosy, but the offensive and defensive lines are the foundation for championship-caliber teams. The 2009 Browns are off to a GREAT start on the offensive line (on paper).

Monday, July 20, 2009

FINALLY Talking Football! Browns Season Preview: The Rookies, and a take on Erin Andrews.

Finally...FINALLY we can stop focusing on that "Not-quite a Major League team but too good to be a Minor League team" known as the Cleveland Indians and focus on the heart and soul of Cleveland Sports...THE CLEVELAND BROWNS! Rookies report this Friday, July 24 and I expect a major contribution out of this year's rookie class due to the fact that it's a new regime and we drafted players who are expected to develop quickly and provide an instant impact. Here's a look at our draft picks one by one and what I expect out of them this year...

1) Alex Mack, C - Known for his intelligence and brute strength as a center, I expect him to fill in for aging finesse center Hank Fraley and provide an immediate upgrade along the offensive line. With Eric Steinbach gaining weight, I expect the Browns to have the best left side in football in 2009 and the running game to return. It should be a beautiful thing to watch.

2) Brian Robiskie, WR - A "safe" pick because he's polished fundamentally. He may not have the sheer athleticism of receivers taken before him, but the fact that he knows the nuances of the game already means he can step in and make an immediate contribution. He'll still develop as he learns how to play at the NFL level on his own, contrary to what scouts say he has NOT peaked yet. He didn't get enough credit his senior year because Terrelle Pryor didn't know how to read a defense (before I get called a Buckeye hater, he will learn how to read defenses in due time, just be patient). It's very likely he will lead all rookie receivers in receptions this year if the Browns offense is any good, and he may be the recipient of Braylon Edwards' upcoming monster year (which WILL happen if Brady Quinn is as advertised, I'll explain why in a future column).

2a) Mohamed Massaquoi, WR - The "riskier" of the two receiver picks because he's not as polished fundamentally, but has the most potential of the two. He also will take longer to develop. I expect him to play the role of the #4 wideout this season with Mike Furrey in the slot. If he emerges as the #3, even better, it means the Browns made two solid receiver selections that will revive the passing game in Cleveland this year. Love his potential, but I think this will be a developmental year for him.

2b) David Veikune, LB - According to the minicamp reports he was a fast learner and played both inside and outside linebacker. It would be a stretch to expect him to start, especially with Alex Hall entering his second season (a player I'm BIG on) and Eric Barton signed in free agency. But...if Kamerion Wimbley doesn't wake up from his two year slumber, Veikune may take his position from him. I expect Veikune to make his impact in 3rd and long situations this season and grow from there. If he's a solid passrusher as a rookie, this will make an immediate, positive impact on the Browns' defense despite not having a starting role.

4) Kaluka Maiava, LB - At this point, if he is a solid special teamer this season, this will be a good pick. Our special teams suffered last season and if we could climb back to 2007 form this will be a huge gain for the Browns.

6) Don Carey and Coye Francis, CB - Grouped together because one might not make the team due to a logjam at the corner position (with the other ending up on the practice squad). The top three, possibly four cornerbacks are virtually locked in stone (Eric Wright, Brandon McDonald, Rod Hood, Corey Ivy), and that is a GREAT thing for a young unit that lacked depth last season. If one of these guys can displace Corey Ivy as the dimeback, that would be a positive for this unit.

6a) James Davis, RB - The Wildcard...yes he's a 6th round pick but he CAN make an immediate impact...why? Most runningbacks are a dime a dozen -- products of their offensive lines. There are a few in the league currently who are truly special (Adrian Peterson, LaDanian Tomlinson among others) but the rest are generally interchangeable based on the blocking in front of them. James Davis displays the vision to be an NFL back and he cuts immediately downhill, another trait of a successful NFL back. What could hold him back is a resurgence of Jamal Lewis and/or Mangini's coaching staff FINALLY using Jerome Harrison properly.

If we get an immediate impact out of three of our rookies, this will be a very successful rookie class that will lead to an improved 2009 record for the Browns. 2009 will not be the disaster 2008 was if training camp goes relatively smoothly...I'll explain that in a future column too.

P.S. How about that Erin Andrews story/video that broke this weekend? I'd link to the video but I don't want ESPN Legal breathing down my neck. Don't get mad at me for talking about it, I wasn't the one who took the video. I'm not going to provide an opinion that will either make me sound like a horny pervert or a no-fun uptight stiff. But, I do have one question: Do all women check themselves out like that for that long?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GM Out of Bankruptcy: Wow, that was fast.

Considering this is the worst time of the year to talk sports, and the fact that I really, REALLY don't want to talk about the Indians has me discussing different topics. This one really piqued my interest over the past week.

On July 11, General Motors came out of bankruptcy.

Wait...what? Are you serious? Seems like yesterday GM just filed for bankruptcy. Wasn't it the 3rd biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history? Shouldn't it take longer to emerge out of bankruptcy?

Didn't we give GM bailout money because "We couldn't afford to let GM go bankrupt?" And now they're out of bankruptcy in about a month's time, leaner, meaner and more efficient?

Huh? So, we could have avoided our tax dollars going down the drain in the initial bailouts and just gone with this one fell swoop and GM would re-emerge?

I don't consider myself a Republican or Democrat (although I'll openly admit I voted for Obama, I didn't want McCain possibly croaking and having that backwoods bimbo Sarah Palin as our President). I don't know the specifics either, I do have some questions though...

1) Who got GM in and out of bankruptcy so quickly? If it was the Obama Administration, kudos. Government intervention was actually GOOD for something.

2) Because we the people technically own GM, does this mean we should buy GM products in order to support the company we own?

3) If bankruptcy wasn't the worst thing in the world for GM (almost seems like a blessing), why the hell didn't they do it sooner?

4) GM seems to have some killer products coming out in the near future (see: Chevy Equinox, Chevy Cruze, Chevy Volt, Chevy Orlando), when GM has their new IPO, would that be the best time to invest in GM stock?

5) If GM does well, what does this mean for the taxpayers who helped pay for the bailouts and bankruptcy? Do we get checks in the mail? Bigger tax returns?

Obviously, I don't have the answers here. My business minor does not make me an expert on bankruptcy and running a multi-billion dollar corporation. I just think we should be informed on this topic by the real media, and we're not because they're focused on day 238643287613294876132 of Michael Jackson coverage.

Can't you tell I desperately want Browns training camp to arrive so I have something to write about?

I'm gonna leave you a funny tweet I read, "What did douchebags do before Affliction and Ed Hardy?" I'm out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Simple Reason Why The All-Star Game Sucks and More on Brock Lesnar/UFC

THE ALL-STAR GAME: JUST NOT RELEVANT ANYMORE

As we were sitting in the ESPN 850 WKNR (that's AM 850 and streamed live on ESPNCleveland.com) programming meeting today, some of the veteran hosts offered an interesting viewpoint about the current state of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game: There is very little interest in it among sports fans, if any interest at all.

These veteran sportscasters grew up with baseball as their national pasttime, and their summer days revolved around sandlot baseball (because back then there was no internet or videogames to occupy your time, and you could walk around outside without parental supervision and not end up on the back of a milk carton). Baseball was THE sport to them, and baseball players were their heroes. (Speaking of sandlot baseball, Greg Brinda was so desperate to revive the practice that he came up with the Brinda's Backyard Baseball event...kudos to him because I wish I could play a pickup softball game)

Anyway, they could not figure out why the MLB All-Star Game is not as important to mainstream America as it once was. I have a very simple explanation: Back in the days before cable, it was a rarity to see the superstars from every city on your television screen. It WAS a big deal just to catch a glimpse of them in something other than newspaper clippings.

Today? Anyone who matters (and some who don't, see Canseco, Jose) is easily available on your television screen and your computer screen at nearly any time you please. Games are broadcast nationally, there's the MLB Extra Innings Package and MLB.tv. You can see said superstars at ANY time while they're playing hard and NOT just half-assing it for show like in the All-Star Game (despite homefield advantage being on the line...what a joke that is).

So that's the simple, logical explanation as to why the All-Star Game is generally boring and less than eventful these days: We can see the superstars whenever we please, and we have better options than to watch overpaid millionaires half-ass it on a vacation break.

NOW TO BROCK LESNAR AND UFC:

The fallout from UFC 100 has been fascinating to me. UFC purists are up in arms about Brock Lesnar's behavior after beating Frank Mir to a bloody pulp on Saturday night. Call it classless, brash, disrespectful all you want. I'm not disagreeing with you.

But you are CRAZY, FULL OF IT if you think Brock Lesnar isn't good for UFC and MMA in general.

Think back to the glory days of boxing. When was boxing at its best? When brash, cocky, entertaining figures like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson were dominant. You wanted to see them beaten, and if you were their fans, you loved their cockiness. You want to see the champ get knocked off, and that's why you keep buying the Pay-Per-Views and paying attention to the product.

Besides, anyone who knew me growing up knows that the best show on TV from 1996-1997 was WCW Monday Nitro, and the best show from 1998-2002 was WWF RAW is WAR, so I may be a tad biased when I say I love the entertainment factor of Brock Lesnar. I'm also partial to the "bad guys" because they happen to be the most entertaining characters.

So Brock has a bit of WWE Sports Entertainer left in him...is that a bad thing for UFC if it generates ratings and growth? I don't think so. And I know I'm right about it, too.

EDIT: Ok I lied, there IS a reason to watch the All-Star Game: Blonde in the 3rd row.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stop Comparing UFC to WWE, They're Totally Different

I notice this on many blogs/forums that I frequent. A lot of people compare UFC's (and MMA in general) surging popularity to the popularity of WWE. I say UFC and WWE because they are the leading enterprises of their respective genres. UFC fans claim WWE "sucks" because "UFC is real while WWE is fake." Many WWE fans follow UFC, but believe UFC doesn't offer the spectacle WWE does. You're not guaranteed an epic battle like you are in WWE because WWE is scripted. (I will NEVER say WWE is fake. Scripted yes, fake no. If you've ever seen the toll professional wrestling puts on the body you wouldn't call it fake either.) Many UFC loyalists are upset that Brock Lesnar defeated Frank Mir last night because it "delegitimizes UFC." That's garbage. I'll explain why in a bit.

UFC loyalists, WWE loyalists, can't we all just get along? Don't both offer their own unique style of sports entertainment? Let's take a look...

UFC:
-Legitimate competition. Not scripted.
-Somewhat of a "sports entertainment-style" atmosphere, moreso than boxing.
-Still new and fresh.
-No cheesy gimmicks like Hornswoggle.
-Legitimate fighting techniques and backgrounds.
-Way more intricate than boxing.
-Much better publicized than boxing. Fills the void that boxing can't at this point in time.

WWE:
-The ultimate sports entertainment spectacle and a difficult, brutal performing art.
-Scripted yes, but the athletic ability and precision required in order to put on a great match without legitimately crippling your opponent is almost uncanny.
-Brutal in its own way. There's no way to "fake" falling off a 20-foot ladder. The ring is not a trampoline either. Those are REAL chairs they hit each other with and REAL tables they fall through. Knife edge chops to the chest are REAL and they legitimately hurt. Plus, Google "working stiff in wrestling" to understand what that means. Wrestlers are legitimate tough guys.
-Whether you like the outcome of a match or not, you're always guaranteed a storyline.
-Larger than life characters, the good ones knowing how to entertain a crowd and "work a microphone." UFC does NOT have Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan or The Rock. Their biggest personality is a former WWE Superstar.
-Many MMA/UFC fighters who are TRUE household names have pro wrestling backgrounds. (Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, Bobby Lashley, Brock Lesnar).
-More people could tell you who John Cena and Triple H are than Randy Couture or Tito Ortiz.

Is one better than the other? No. Why? Because they're both SEPARATE ENTITIES. The only way UFC and WWE are related is the fact that several pro wrestlers have tried their hand at MMA (and succeeded, especially Brock). Also keep in mind these pro wrestlers who have success also have very successful amateur wrestling backgrounds, meaning they know certain techniques before even stepping inside the cage. Hence why Brock's win does NOT delegitimize UFC and MMA in general. Brock had a decorated amateur wrestling background before ever stepping foot in a WWE ring or an MMA cage. I know I listed more reasons backing WWE but I feel I needed to explain WWE's place as a legitimate athletic artform. They're athletes with entertainment ability, not actors.

WWE is the biggest sports entertainment spectacle in the world. UFC is the biggest legitimate fighting spectacle in the world with entertainment elements. Can't we just accept that for what they are and not try to rip the other one apart? If you like one over the other, that's fine. No need to rain on someone else's parade.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Power of Social Media

"Ammo, why the hell do you update your status so much?"
"Why are you on Twitter?"
"No one cares what you put in your sandwich."

Yes you do. Otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the power of social media. Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, it's become an entire new marketplace, and since I love technology, social media is a part of that. This is the future of marketing and if you're smart you'll learn to embrace social media rather than comment "Oh...well that's dumb."

What's the key to social media? Connectivity. On one hand, we are less connected to each other because we text instead of call, e-mail instead of write letters, IM instead of go across the office to talk to someone, Tweet and blog to masses of people we don't know. But why do we do this? Easy. It's quick and efficient and as social beings we get our messages out to more people in a quicker manner.

And as 20somethings, why should we use traditional channels of media to communicate our messages? Why should I apply for a position at a newspaper when I can blog any time I feel like it, in any form I feel like? I'm not bound by journalistic standards or formats. I can type away all I want, and you'll read it. I can have a Justin.tv radio show uncensored and free of advertising. And you'll read/view it. Hell, you are right now. Granted, I would like to have a job and be paid to write (and be in front of a camera). But, I figure if I generate enough buzz on this blog, I'll be offered a position on a website or other form of media. To borrow a line from the late, great Billy Mays, "THAT'S THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA."

Social media is NOT going away either. What some people have in the past dismissed as "creepy" is now openly embraced. Remember when we all hated the "new Facebook?" Well, you still use it, adapt to it and learn to like it. Is it really that bad if our lives are open books? I have nothing to hide. I'm a 22-year old soon to be college graduate who likes to have fun and meet people and share my life with anyone who wants to be part of it. Is that so bad? I don't think so. That's what social media does for us...and the marketing opportunities through this media are only scratching the surface. The new opportunities are for our generation to figure out, and we're going to have a lot of fun doing it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How Far We've Come

I'm going to divert from the usual Cleveland sports stuff to talk about something I'm equally fascinated with: technology and gadgets.

In the middle of a Friday night that featured several beers and a party bus to the Flats came an interesting conversation between myself and a couple of my friends. We got on the iPhone discussion and how much of an incredible device it and other smartphones are. We also talked about GPS devices and how handy they are too. How many of us have become so reliant on it that we use it in towns that we're familiar with but aren't exactly sure where a certain location is.

Sit back and think about this for just a second: a decade ago, a skip-free CD player was considered incredible technology. GPS devices were in their infancy for consumer use, mainly used for military purposes. Now they all are available in a single device.

I'm not just talking about the iPhone, I'm talking all smartphones. The iPhone just has the best interface with the Palm Pre in a close second.

A decade ago, it was a big deal to own a DVD player. Now, you can download high definition video over the internet and stream it to your flat screen, high definition television (something that cost $10,000+ in 1999)! Did you ever imagine that PC's would become so powerful that consumers actually want LESS power in return for better battery life and better mobility? That you could carry a device that plays music, plays video, accesses the internet, runs various applications such as TomTom GPS, and basically runs your entire life -- all in the palm of your hand?

A decade ago, cracking 1GHz was an enormous breakthrough. Now, it's all about the best power efficiency with overall clock speed taking a back seat. A decade ago, laptops were clunky, underpowered and expensive. Today laptops are everywhere, and some come in sleek aluminum unibody enclosures (Macbook Pro).

I'm rambling, but I think you get my point. Sit back and think about how quickly technology has advanced since 1999. Now, sit back and imagine how much technology will advance by 2019. It truly is mindblowing. What is next? The mythical "computer chip in our brain" has seemed like a dream...will it actually become a reality in the next decade?

Chew on that. Leave your comments.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

NBA Free Agency

I have to be quick tonight because I don't have a lot of time.

I don't care who the Cavs sign as long as the player signs for one year so we still have cap room in Summer 2010 to land Chris Bosh to play with LeBron. I'll be thrilled if we sign one of the guys linked to us because it'll make us a better team, but if I have to choose...

With the Mid-Level Exception: Charlie Villanueva is intriguing but unproven. Ron Artest is great but a headcase. Rasheed Wallace is also a headcase but we don't know how much tread is left on the tires. Give me Ron Artest for one season. I can't think of a better starting 5 with both offensive and defensive presence than LeBron, Shaq, Mo, Artest and Delonte.

With the Biannual Exception: I don't know, I don't care. That's why Danny Ferry makes the big bucks and watches the hours of NBA tape that I don't (I watch NFL tape like a geek, but that's for another column). Give me a guy who can make our bench better and more consistent, and I'll be happy.

It'll never happen, but Jason Kidd taking the Biannual to come off the bench would be amazing. He's old and wants a championship, therefore there's that small chance but I HIGHLY doubt it.

Anyway, strap in your seatbelts Clevelanders and Cavs fans alike, this should be an interesting Independence Day weekend.