Browns First Preseason Game Impressions…KIZER!

Well, let the quarterback controversy begin in Cleveland…again. More on that later.

I know everyone, including me most years, says preseason wins don’t matter. But for a team who narrowly escaped not winning a single game last year and in the midst of a complete overhaul, this 20-14 win against the Saints was an important one, even if Drew Brees didn’t touch the field.

At a very 10,000-foot level I was pleased with how the Browns played in terms of attitude and approach. The defense played well, especially second year LB Joe Schobert, and when your backups are making 4th and goal stops late in the 3rd quarter of the first preseason game and jumping around with excitement when they do, you know how bad the team wants to turn things around. The Gregg Williams affect is in full force. What is evident though is the Browns still lack a potent offensive attack (this line was written before Kizer decided to begin his ascension into every Cleveland fan’s overly optimistic preseason heart).

Starting QB Brock Osweiler’s arm looked strong and the ball came off his hand nicely, but the problem was the ball ended on the grass on all of his throws over 10 yards. To be fair, he absolutely pinpoint dropped a ball to Kenny Britt in the corner of the endzone in the 2nd quarter that would have been a TD if Britt remembered to drag his second foot. Overall Osweiler was 6/14 for 42 yards, no TDs or INTs, and a QB rating of 50.3.

The heir apparent to the position, DeShone Kizer, came out under center for the second half. He had a nice presence in the pocket and we saw that big arm he is known for when he connected on a 50-yard toss early in the 4th to set-up a 1-yard TD rush. The game never really seemed too fast for him, which as a rookie is a great sign; he has that clock in his head telling him when to get out of the pocket and make a nice run or let the ball go that Cody Kessler still lacks. His throws got crisper and he seemed to be more and more comfortable as the game progressed. And then he decided to mount a 4th quarter game winning drive capped off with another 50-yard bomb that could not have been handed to his WR in a better spot. He ended the night 11/18 for 184 yards, 1 TD and no INTs.

Top pick Myles Garrett may not have made a big impact on the stat sheet, but he was able to bull rush the Saint in front of him and nearly get to Chase Daniel on a few occasions. The kid showed the wheels and strength you’d expect from the #1 overall pick. As he adjusts to the NFL game and learns a few more tricks from Joe Thomas expect him to show up on that stat sheet in a big way sooner rather than later.

Cameron Erving still appears absolutely lost on the field. He started at LT in place of Joe Thomas who generally sees limited preseason action at this point in his career. In the first series alone Erving was flagged for a false start and later a hold after getting absolutely dominated off the line. As a former 1st round pick in his third season, it is frustrating to see him still struggling.

While we still may not know exactly how he will fit into the defense, Jabrill Peppers looks reeeeal good returning the ball. He is fast off the catch and ran through a couple defenders before finally being taken down on his first kickoff return of the night. And on a punt return late in the 1st quarter he almost made it to the only-the-kicker-to-beat part of the field before being tripped up.

This year’s 7th round pick out of NC State RB Matthew Dayes also played well. He was a nice change of pace from Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, ran without fear, and made some great cuts to get downfield in a hurry after being handed the ball.

Less than a month until the games count for real, let the countdown begin.

Now, the competition for who the guy will be commanding the huddle when the Browns take the field Week 1 got a whole lot more interesting during tonight’s 4th quarter.

Such is life as Browns fan.

Advertisements

Indians Acquire Jay Bruce

Late Wednesday night news broke that the Indians acquired Jay Bruce from the Mets for…wait for it…Ryder Ryan (insert laughing yourself to tears emoji here). Cleveland gets a bomber of a left-handed bat and outfielder for an average at best pitching prospect. Ryan is 3-4 with a 4.79 ERA this year for Single A Lake County.

Bruce is a career .249/.318/.472 hitter over 10 seasons. This year he is hitting .258/.324/.524 with 29 HRs and 75 RBIs. He has a WAR of 2.4. I don’t care how great of a year Chris Sale is having, come the ALDS, good luck getting past Ramirez, Encarnacion, Bruce, and Santana, and that’s after he has to make it past Lindor and Kipnis to lead it off.

Bruce gives the Indians some serious extra pop and depth in the outfield with Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall both on the DL. Assuming they are all healthy come playoff time, the Tribe is going to have some packed corners of the outfield, but there are worse problems to have; especially with a rookie centerfielder who will be getting his first taste of playoff baseball (hopefully) here very soon.

The Indians will absorb the rest of Bruce’s salary this year, about $5 million. Bruce is a free agent next season, so this may be a very temporary stay on the shores of Lake Erie, but it is one Indians fans welcome with open arms.

Trevor Bauer Is Finding His Groove

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple months, you know that Corey Kluber is having a Cy Young caliber, some would say downright fascist, year for the Tribe. He’s 10-3 with 2.65 ERA and 0.91 WHIP so far this season. On Tuesday night he became the first pitcher in MLB history to strikeout 10+ batters in each of his first 5 starts following the All-Star Game. In that time he is 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 0.737 WHIP and a ridiculous 13.7 Ks per 9.

But to be fair, the Indians weren’t worried about Kluber (or Carrasco) as the season progressed, but the back end of the rotation was a different story. If you are a regular reader of the site you know I have written about my concerns with the pitching staff before and pondered whether the Indtians needed to make a move at the deadline.

Then in comes Trevor Bauer to show us that Kluber isn’t the only one who has settled into his own in the second half. Since that time he is 3-1 with a stat line in his last 3 starts that looks like this:

7/27 vs. LAA: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K

8/4 vs. NYY: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K

8/9 vs. COL: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 K

And if it wasn’t for a blown save by Cody Allen on Wednesday afternoon, that last start against Colorado would have yielded him another win.

Trevor is a hard guy to figure out. When he’s on, he’s almost unhittable, and he pitches like a man who is pissed that someone would even dare step into the batter’s box against him. But when he’s off, he looks more like a freshman baseball player at his first real tryout who is just finding out he isn’t quite as good as his parents and coaches told him he was growing up. If the Indians get the former, and combine that with a surging Danny Salazar, then watch out baseball world.

And this is not the first time I have ended an article like this, and it won’t be the last:

Is it October yet?

 

Brock Osweiler to Start 1st Browns Preseason Game

Monday the Browns announced that Brock Osweiler will start the team’s first preseason game Thursday against the New Orleans Saints. In the Browns team scrimmage last week Osweiler got second team reps, but will take the field first this time around. The man who the Browns moneyball-ed the Texans for back in March when they took him AND a second round pick essentially to take Osweiler’s salary off the Texans’ hands.

Cody Kessler, who most people expected to start the season has not looked great in camp thus far. He is still having issues letting the ball go deep downfield and doing so in a timely fashion. Kessler will work with the second stringers Thursday.

Rookie DeShone Kizer is listed as the third QB on the depth chart. While he’s looked much better than expected in camp, I don’t think anyone expected him to be handed the reins this early. That being said, CBS Sports columnist Nathan Zegura commented last week that he’s heard from some veterans that Kizer will be the guy at some point.

And to make things even more interesting, HC Hue Jackson commented on Monday that in terms of the QB competition, “This thing’s not over by any stretch.”

As for the Browns other top picks, Myles Garrett has been listed as a starting DE, TE David Njoku sits third on the depth chart, and Jabrill Peppers, while listed as the second string SS, will be handling kick and punt return duties.

Myles Garrett has been exactly what you’d expect from the #1 pick. But Njoku has been a little hit or miss thus far. He’s impressed everyone with his athleticism, but has not had the most reliable hands. Hopefully as he settles in he drops the drops issue.

All-in-all Browns training camp has been largely what everyone expected. But most importantly ladies and gentleman, we are only a few short days away from football.

HERE WE GO BROWNIES, HERE WE GO!

RHP Joe Smith Back in Cleveland

With less than an hour to spare prior to reaching Monday’s 4 PM MLB trade deadline, news broke that relief pitcher Joe Smith would be returning to the Indians in exchange for sending prospects LHP Thomas Pannone and 2B Samad Taylor to Toronto.

I am, and have always been a big fan of Smith. He pitched for the Indians from 2009-2013. During that time he had an 18-11 record, a 2.76 ERA, and a 1.199 WHIP in 303 appearances. So far this year Smith is sporting a 3.28 ERA in 38 appearances, earning a 3-0 record. He is also throwing a career year in terms of Ks per 9 at 12.9, his second highest year being last season at 9.4, having not posted a number above 9 in that category since his rookie campaign in 2007.

Smith is a nice addition, and it’s nice to have a member of the gone but not forgotten Bullpen Mafia back in Cleveland. That being said, I would have liked to see a left-handed reliever get added after Boone Logan was placed on the 60-day DL over the weekend with a torn lat that very well may keep him off the playoff roster. What I am ecstatic about is that the Indians did not trade either of their two top prospects, Mejia or McKenzie, which I was very much against.

The two most likely targets for their services were Sonny Gray who ended up in pinstripes for three prospects, #4, #8, and #12 in their MLB Pipeline, but none of which were named Frazier or Torres, and Chris Archer who remained in Tampa Bay. Throughout the day, the Indians were also linked to Yu Darvish, now a Dodger, and Zach Britton, still an Oriole, but all indications were the asking price was too high, which likely meant Mejia, McKenzie, or both.

In terms of what the Tribe gave up, Pannone and Taylor are two relatively minor prospects, neither of which are in the organization’s MLB Pipeline Top 30. To be honest I know very little about the 19-year old Taylor as he is in his first year in Short A Mahoning Valley, but I was high on Pannone. He is currently 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 14 games in AA Akron. With great lefty starters hard to come by, this seems like a big piece to give up in my opinion.

For those of you out there who may not know Joe Smith, I feel obligated to mention that you may know his wife, CBS and Turner Broadcasting sideline reporter Allie LaForce, who is originally from the Cleveland area, played basketball at Ohio University, and worked for the Cleveland Fox affiliate prior to being picked up for national broadcasts.

And finally, in your feel good story of the day, apparently Smith told the Blue Jays the only team he would want to be traded to was the Indians because his mother is battling Huntington’s disease and playing for the Tribe would let him be within driving distance of her.

Overall not quite as exciting of a day as some Indians fans expected, but I for one am happy with the addition of another reliable arm in the bullpen without having to give up either of the team’s top two prospects.

CFB is Back! The First #MACtion Poll

Wednesday’s Mid-American Conference Football Media Day, singular, may not get as much attention as the famed Southeast Conference Football Media Days, plural, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve some attention.

The Ohio University Bobcats were picked to win the MAC East, earning 11 first place votes, 1 less than the Miami Redhawks, but OU had a higher overall rating. Toledo is the clear favorite to win the MAC West after getting 22 of the 24 first place votes.

The Rockets also garnered 21 of the 24 votes to win the MAC Championship game, while the boys from Athens interestingly did not receive a single vote (one each for Miami, Western Michigan, and Bowling Green).

The 2016 campaign ended with the Bobcats and the college-football-wonderkid-coach-P.J. Fleck-led Western Michigan Broncos sitting atop their respective divisions, with the Broncos escaping with a 29-23 win in a conference title shootout that effectively ended on an INT thrown by Ohio’s senior QB Greg Windham with just under one minute to play.

The Bobcats return 17 starters and 39 letter-winners from the 2016 team, including promising redshirt sophomore QB Quinton Maxwell, who threw for 1,267 yards and 8 TDs against 4 INTs in 9 appearances for Ohio U last season.

Toledo’s offense will be in the hands of senior QB Logan Woodside who threw for 45 TDs and only 9 INTs last season, 21 of those to returning WRs Cody Thompson and Jon’Vea Johnson.

Neither of these defenses are going to wow you, but they don’t give up a ton of points either. Ohio was #26 and Toledo was #48 in scoring defense in 2016 with many of the same faces returning in 2017.

Based on the broadcast schedule announced to date, your first weeknight #MACtion game of the year can be seen on ESPN2 on Wednesday, November 1st when Central Michigan heads to Western Michigan. However, there are a couple fun October matchups to keep an eye on that may make their way to your TV screen.

Either way, football is back and very soon we won’t have to rely on Last Chance U to scratch our college football itch.

And I would be remiss to end this without an OU!? Oh yeah!

Danny Salazar Makes a Statement Outing

Last week I wrote about whether the Indians should make a move for another starting pitcher in order to bolster the rotation for the playoffs.

Saturday night against the Blue Jays, in front of myself, brother, dad, and 34,566 of our friends and foes, Danny shut us the hell up…and then brought us to our feet.

  1. 1. 0. 8.

Seven Innings

One Hit

Zero Walks

Eight Strikeouts

Not to mention, an epic exasperated bat flip/spin by Josh Donaldson after Salazar blew a fastball past him for his third K of the first inning.

Can you judge a pitcher on one outing? Absolutely not. But you have to give Danny credit. While the entire baseball world, myself included, was wondering whether or not he was healthy, or good enough, to be the third man in a rotation with the sole goal of taking the Indians back to the World Series, he laced up his cleats, and reminded that baseball world what he could do on the bump.

It was his first start since May 27th where he took a loss and thereafter sat with a 3-5 record and 5.50 ERA on the year. He then made two appearances out of the bullpen in games that weren’t even close and proceeded to find himself on the DL.

Danny has been up and down his whole career. It is feast or famine with him. But I’ll be damned, he brought his best stuff to the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario Saturday night. And if he can give us three or four of those starts in a row when the leaves come, and likely not the maple kind this year, Cleveland is going to remind everyone that tunes in what the shores of Lake Erie look like in November.