Tag Archives: Browns

4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Tennessee Titans

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we conclude our look at the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Titans are coming off their first season above .500 since 2011, but a late-season injury to QB Marcus Mariota derailed their hopes for a playoff appearance. Mariota is recovered and ready for the season, and he’ll have new weapons to throw to with the offseason addition of WRs Corey Davis — the No. 5 overall draft pick out of Western Michigan — and Eric Decker, who the Titans signed after he was released by the Jets. They’ll join returning WR Rishard Matthews, who is coming off a career year.

In the 15 games he played last season, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards and 26 touchdowns, with 9 interceptions. Matthews had 65 receptions for 945 yards and 9 touchdowns. TE Delanie Walker wasn’t far behind Matthews; in 10 games, he also caught 65 passes for 800 yards and 7 touchdowns. Decker played in just three games with the Jets last year but averaged a respectable 21.6 yards per reception in the limited sample size. RB DeMarco Murray carried the ball 293 times for 1,287 yards and 9 touchdowns, adding 53 catches for an additional 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Derrick Henry, No. 2 on the depth chart, had 110 carries for 490 yards and 5 touchdowns. In total, the offense ranked in the top half of the league in points scored, and the defense also ranked in the top half of the NFL in points allowed.

Adding the likes of Decker and Davis to an offense that already includes Matthews and Walker gives the Titans with an offense that has a chance to compete with just about any other team in the league. The defense was middle-of-the-pack or so last year so even a slight improvement on that side of the ball should give the team an even better chance to win games. In a division like the AFC South that doesn’t have a Patriots-esque team that’s expected to be significantly better than the others, the Titans have a legitimate shot at winning their first division title since 2008.

The Titans open the season at home to take on the Raiders. Their schedule then brings them to Jacksonville to do battle with the Jaguars in Week 2. The Seahawks come to Nashville in Week 3, and road games against the Texans and Dolphins follow in the next two weeks. The Titans’ first primetime game comes in Week 6, when they host the Colts on Monday night. A visit to the Browns is next, followed by a Week 8 bye. After the bye, the Titans have three straight games against AFC North foes, starting with a home game against the Ravens in Week 9. That’s followed with another home tilt against the Bengals, then a Thursday nighter at the Steelers in Week 11. The Titans stay on the road for Week 12, taking on the Colts, before hosting the Texans in Week 13. After another stretch of three games against teams from one division — this time the NFC West — the Titans finish the season at home against the Jaguars in Week 17. I’m thinking they’ll win nine or 10 games and again be in contention for a playoff spot in late December.

Source: http://www.titansonline.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Houston Texans

We move on to the AFC South in our continuing previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so), with the Houston Texans, who won the division last season.

The Texans’ offseason centered around QB Brock Osweiler for the second straight season — last year for signing him to a big-money contract, this year for being able to trade him after a mediocre season. With Osweiler now on the Browns, the Texans decided to trade up in the draft to make Clemson QB Deshaun Watson their first-round pick, and he will compete with QB Tom Savage for the starting job. Whoever gets the nod will be without a key piece of the offense for the first half of the season after WR Will Fuller broke his collarbone early in training camp, which is expected to cause him to miss up to three months. The defense was among the league’s best last season — and that was with DE J.J. Watt not playing after Week 3. With him back and expected to be healthy, the defense should be even better than it was in 2016. The defense will, however, be without veteran NT Vince Wilfork, who retired, and CB A.J. Bouye, who went to the division-rival Jaguars in free agency. Veteran T Duane Brown has yet to report to camp as he holds out in an attempt to get more money, but he will likely to join the team before the regular season begins.

Osweiler started most of the Texans’ games at quarterback last season, with Savage starting two games and playing in three overall. He went 46-for-73 on pass attempts for 461 yards but did not throw a touchdown pass — or an interception — in his limited playing time. WR DeAndre Hopkins was the team’s best receiver, but his production was limited given the team’s quarterback play. He had 78 receptions for 954 yards and 4 touchdowns. TE C.J. Fiedorowicz became a favorite target of Osweiler, who liked to throw short passes his way, and he caught 54 balls for 559 yards and 4 touchdowns. TE Ryan Griffin went 50 for 442 with 2 touchdowns. Fuller played in 14 games and caught just 47 passes — partially due to his tendency to drop passes — for 635 yards and 2 touchdowns. RB Lamar Miller carried the majority of the workload on the ground, with 268 yards for 1,073 yards and 5 touchdowns in 14 games; he also caught 31 passes for 188 yards. Backup RB Alfred Blue totaled 420 rushing yards on 100 attempts, scoring 1 touchdown in the process. In his final season at Clemson, Watson completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions, though college stats don’t always translate well to the NFL because collegiate competition often isn’t to the level that it is in the NFL. The offense was tied for the fourth-fewest points scored last season, but the defense was the top-ranked team in terms of yards allowed and 11th in points allowed.

No matter who gets the bulk of the starts under center — and it’s looking like Savage will get first crack at it in Week 1 — will almost certainly perform better than Osweiler did last year. With Fuller likely out for about half the season, other wide receivers will have to step up their game, so expect WRs Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong to see increased reps and targets, with Fiedorowicz probably continuing to be an important part of the passing game. Lamar Miller is still the starting running back, but Blue may lose some of his work as the backup with the Texans having drafted Texas RB D’Onta Foreman in the third round. As the season goes on, he should see an increased workload as he gets more entrenched in the system as he goes through his rookie season. If Watt and DE Jadeveon Clowney can both stay healthy and on the field together — which hasn’t been the case much in Clowney’s first three seasons in the league — the defense should again be a formidable unit and among the best in the league.

The schedule opens with a divisional battle at home against the Jaguars, then the Texans head to Cincinnati for Week 2 to take on the Bengals on Thursday night. Then, for the second straight year, the Texans play at the Patriots in Week 3 as they look to avenge their playoff loss against the eventual Super Bowl LI champs. They go back home to play the Titans in Week 4. They could face off against Osweiler when they host the Browns in Week 6. Their bye follows that game, then it’s off to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in Week 8. The Texans host the Colts in Week 9 and the Cardinals in Week 11. They’re on Monday Night Football in Week 12 when they play at the Ravens, then stay on the road for their second game against the Titans in Week 13. They host the Steelers in Week 16 for a nationally televised game on Christmas Day, and the Texans finish the season on the road in Week 17 to take on the Colts. Obviously the quarterback play will affect how many games the Texans win, but with their stout defense I can see them getting double-digit wins with just decent quarterback play.

Sources: http://www.houstontexans.com/, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Minnesota Vikings

Our previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days leading up to the start of the season, continues as the NFC North comes to an end with the Minnesota Vikings, who had a third-place finish the division last season.

The Vikings were dealt a major blow in training camp last season when QB Teddy Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL that caused him to miss the season. That caused the Vikings to trade for QB Sam Bradford, who led the team to an 8-8 record a season after an 11-5 record and division title. Bridgewater is still on the PUP list, so he’ll be out until at least Week 6 if he doesn’t come off the list before the end of the preseason, which means Bradford will remain the team’s starter heading into the season, with QB Case Keenum backing him up after signing a deal with the team in the offseason. For the first time since the 2006 season, RB Adrian Peterson won’t be on the Vikings’ roster after the team declined to pick up the option on his contract. They selected FSU RB Dalvin Cook with their first pick in the draft, likely expecting him to be Peterson’s long-term replacement. The team also lost RB Matt Asiata and WR Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency, leaving some holes on the offense that the team is trying to fill by signing RBs Bishop Sankey — who suffered a torn ACL in the team’s preseason opener and will miss the season — and Latavius Murray and WR Michael Floyd.

Bradford stayed healthy, which has been difficult for him in the past, and played 15 games. He completed a league-high 71.6% of his passes, setting a new career high of 3,877 yards, with 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. WR Adam Thielen surprisingly led the team with 967 yards on 69 receptions; he had 5 receiving touchdowns. WR Stefon Diggs recorded a team-high 84 catches for 903 yards and 3 touchdowns, and TE Kyle Rudolph was right behind him with 83 catches for 840 yards and 7 touchdowns. With Peterson out for most of the season, RB Jerick McKinnon split starting running back duties with Asiata, going carrying the ball 159 times for 539 yards and 2 touchdowns. He added 43 receptions for 255 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns out of the backfield. In 14 games with the Raiders last season, Murray ran for 788 yards and 4 touchdowns on 195 carries. All told, the Vikings’ offense ranked 23rd in the NFL in points scored for the season, while the defense allowed the sixth-fewest points in the league.

If Thielen can have a similar season to what he did last year and Rudolph can follow up his career year with another strong season, to go along with a potential 1,000-yard season from Diggs, the passing game should do fine for the Vikings. It can be even better if Floyd can contribute better numbers than the 488 yards he had between the Cardinals and Patriots last season. For the second year in a row, the running game is where the biggest question marks exist. Murray should help the unit, but Cook is looking like I could be in store to get a large portion of the carries; he was listed as the No. 1 running back on the team’s initial depth chart during camp.

The Vikings won’t have to wait long to see Peterson again as they host the Saints, his new team, in Week 1’s Monday night game. Their schedule then takes them to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in Week 2. The Vikings face their divisional foes in three straight weeks, when they host the Lions in Week 4, visit the Bears on Monday night in Week 5 and play the Packers at home in Week 6. They have a Week 9 bye, which is sandwiched between road games — at the Browns in Week 8 and visiting the Redskins in Week 10. They visit the Lions in Week 12 for the first game of the Thanksgiving tripleheader, then get extra rest before heading to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in Week 13. They host the Bengals in Week 15, head to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers in primetime in Week 16 and finish the season at home against the Bears. I think the Vikings are looking at another .500 season in 2017.

Sources: http://www.vikings.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Pittsburgh Steelers

Our continuing previews of the 32 NFL teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season resume as we conclude with the AFC North. Here, we preview the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are coming off a first-place finish in the division last season.

The Steelers were the class of the division last season, and that looks to continue in 2017. They were 11-5 last year, without having their full offense for much of the season, including star RB Le’Veon Bell missing a quarter of the season. One question mark entering the season is WR Martavis Bryant, who was suspended all of last season and is not yet fully reinstated for the coming year. He should be able to play starting in Week 1, but that’s not guaranteed if she slips up before then. Whatever Bryant’s status is, the team will have one of the league’s best receivers in WR Antonio Brown leading the receiving core as they try to make it back to the AFC Championship for a second straight season, and possibly even further. The team will be without some of the complementary offensive players from last year’s team, including TE Ladarius Green, WR Markus Wheaton and backup RB DeAngelo Williams, who performed well when filling in for Bell.

QB Ben Roethlisberger started 14 games last season, passing for 3,819 yards and 29 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Brown had a typically strong season, recording 105 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. WR Eli Rogers added 48 receptions in limited playing time for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns. TE Jesse James had 39 receptions for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. In his 12 games, Bell carried the ball 261 times for 1,268 yards and 7 touchdowns. He added an impressive 75 receptions for 616 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who could be the No. 2 on the depth chart with Williams gone, only had 14 carries for 58 yards last season. Overall, the team was 10th with 399 points scored and while the defense allowed 327 points, 10th-best in the league, and ranked 12th in yards allowed.

Other than Williams, the Steelers didn’t lose any significant pieces of the offense and should get an extra four games out of Bell, who is one of the top players at his position. Roethlisberger is getting older and not as good as he was in his prime but still put up respectable numbers in 2016. Barring injury, you should expect him to put up similar stats as he did last season. If he does miss time, backup QB Landry Jones knows the system and should be able to put up serviceable numbers with guys like Bell and Brown around him. Bryant missed all of last season and hasn’t played more than 11 games in a season yet in his career, but he can put up numbers when he’s on the field — he has 14 touchdowns on 76 career receptions and averages 17.6 yards per reception. Assuming his reinstatement happens in time for the start of the regular season and his health allows him to play most, if not all, of the Steelers’ 16 games, he would be a tremendous No. 2 receiver behind Brown and give Roethlisberger another weapon to throw to in the passing game. Combine that with Bell’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and it should add up to one of the best passing attacks in the NFL to go along with the impressive rushing stats that Bell should put up.

Looking at the Steelers’ schedule, they open up with what should be a winnable game at the Browns in Week 1, then host the Vikings for Week 2. They visit the Ravens for a divisional battle in Week 4 and face the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 6. The Steelers get a Week 9 bye, sandwiched between road games against the Lions and Colts. The Steelers then have back-to-back primetime games at home — the first of four straight night games — against playoff contenders. The Titans come to town for a Thursday night game in Week 11, followed by a Sunday night contest against the Packers. In Week 13, they travel to the Bengals on Monday night, then have another Sunday nighter scheduled in Week 14 at home against the Ravens. Week 15 sees a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship when the Patriots come to Pittsburgh, and the Steelers travel to Houston on Christmas to take on the Texans in Week 16 before ending the season the same way it started — taking on the Browns, this time at home. The Steelers face a tough schedule, but they have good units on both sides of the ball so they should be able to overcome the challenging slate to come within a game or so in either direction of last year’s 11-win season.

Sources: http://www.steelers.com, http;//www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Cleveland Browns

Up next in our continuing preview of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so) leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Cleveland Browns, coming off a last-place finish in the AFC North last season.

Last year was the sixth straight season the Browns finished in last place in the division, and there’s really nowhere to go but up after finishing 2016 with a 1-15 record. The team made one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, trading for QB Brock Osweiler, who was a major disappointment for the Texans after they signed him to a big free-agent contract last offseason. Despite his $16 million salary this season, he’s going to have to compete for the starting job with QBs Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer, the team’s second-round pick in this year’s draft. They went defense with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, selecting DL Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M. Other additions of note include DB Calvin Pryor, who they acquired in a trade with the Jets, and WR Kenny Britt. The team lossed its two best pass-catchers from last season, with WR Terrelle Pryor and TE Gary Barnidge no longer on the roster.

Three different quarterbacks started games for the Browns last season, but Kessler is the only one left on the roster. He started eight games, and played in nine total, throwing for 1,380 yards and 6 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in 195 passes. With Houston, Osweiler started 14 games, going 301-for-510 for 2,957 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he threw 16 interceptions and was sacked 27 times. Of the holdovers from last year’s team, the two most successful pass-catchers were RBs Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell; they caught 53 and 40 passes, respectively, but neither scored a receiving touchdown. WR Corey Coleman had 33 receptions for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Britt caught 68 passes for 1,002 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Rams last season. Crowell was the team’s leading rusher, tallying 952 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. As the No. 2, Johnson ran for 358 yards and 1 touchdown. Overall, the offense finished as the second-worst in the league with points scored and third-worst in yards. Defensively, the Browns gave up  the third-most points and second-most yards.

No matter who gets the nod at starting quarterback, and Kessler seems to be the favorite early in camp, will have a tough time finding success without many strong weapons in the passing game. Britt is a veteran but has only had a single 1,000-yard season in eight years in the league. Coleman put up decent numbers in his rookie campaign, but he is unproven in the No. 2 role. He could be a good complementary piece, but I’m not sure he’s ready to be a reliable option for 16 games. Johnson can provide a receiving option out of the backfield. And while Crowell probably isn’t one of the 10 best running backs in the game, he almost reached 1,000 rushing yards last season and could reach that mark in 2017. The offense might not be able to score enough to win many games if the defense doesn’t show improvement over last season. If Garrett can live up to the hype of being the top overall draft pick, that would be go a long way to getting the defense to be better than last season.

The Browns’ schedule begins with back-to-back divisional games, hosting the Steelers then visiting the Ravens. They stay on the road in Week 3 to take on the Colts in Indianapolis. Osweiler may get a chance to face his former team in Week 6 when the Browns head to Houston to take on the Texans. In Week 8, the Browns go overseas to take on the Vikings in London, followed by their bye. They visit the Lions in Week 11 coming off their bye. In Week 14, the Browns host the Packers. They end the season with consecutive road games, at the Bears in Week 16 and at the Steelers — bringing the schedule full circle — in Week 17. The Browns almost certainly have to win more games than last year, but with their schedule I’m having a hard time finding more than about three or four games that I think they can win, so they’ll likely finish in last place in the AFC North yet again.

Sources: http;//www.clevelandbrowns.com, http;//www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Baltimore Ravens

It’s August, which means the NFL season is approaching and it’s time for our annual preview of all 32 NFL teams over the next 32 days (or so), followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2017 season. We begin this year’s previews with the AFC North and the first team in the division, the Baltimore Ravens, who are coming off a second-place finish in the division last season.

After a disappointing 5-10 campaign in 2015, the Ravens improvee to .500 last season, which wasn’t good enough to make it to the playoffs. Recognizing they didn’t have much success running the ball last season, the Ravens’ biggest free-agent signing this offseason was RB Danny Woodhead, who is one of the top pass-catching running backs in the league. They also signed WR Jeremy Maclin to give QB Joe Flacco another weapon in the passing game. They also signed veteran CB Brandon Carr to help out a defense that already ranked in the top 10 a year ago. They focused on defensive players in the draft, including their first-round pick, Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey.

Flacco threw for a career-high 4,317 yards last season with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Although he had a low touchdown total, it was a nice comeback season after an ACL tear ended his season early in 2015. As mentioned, the running game wasn’t good last season with a total of 10 touchdowns scored on the ground. RB Terrance West was the club’s leading rusher with 774 yards and 5 touchdowns in 193 attempts. Rookie RB Kenneth Dixon, who had high expectations that he couldn’t live up to, ran for 382 yards and 2 touchdowns in 88 attempts despite not starting any games. RB Justin Forsett did start three games, but he totaled just 98 yards on 31 rushes. An injury limited Woodhead to just two games, one start, last season with the Chargers, but he totaled more than 1,000 all-purpose yards in 2015 with 9 touchdowns and 80 receptions in his last full season in the league. Flacco’s favorite target last season is no longer with the team, as injury-prone TE Dennis Pitta was released this summer. WR Mike Wallace had the second-most targets and receptions on the team, with 72 catches for a team-high 1,017 yards and 4 touchdowns. With the Chiefs last season, Maclin played in 12 games, catching 44 balls for 536 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his last two full seasons in 2014 and 2015. The defense was ninth in the NFL with 321 points allowed and seventh in yards allowed at 5,154 yards.

Signing Woodhead and Maclin should improve the Ravens’ offense, especially if Woodhead can come back from his torn ACL to play well heading into his first year in Baltimore. He can not only improve one of the worst ground games in the league but also provide a strong target out of the backfield for Flacco, as evidenced by his 80 receptions two years ago. The running game has already been dealt a blow early in training camp, with Dixon suffering a season-ending knee injury; they signed RB Bobby Rainey to replace him. Also on the injury front, Flacco has been dealing with a back injury in camp, but he shouldn’t miss extended time during the regular season. Maclin and Wallace should form a strong 1-2 punch in the receiving game, with Maclin likely being able to make up for the lost production following the release of Pitta, who accounted for more than a quarter of Flacco’s passing attempts last season.

The Ravens open the season with back-to-back divisional games, at the Bengals in Week 1 and hosting the Browns in Week 2. Their first of two against the Steelers comes Week 4 in Baltimore, followed by a cross-country trip to head to Oakland to take on the dangerous Raiders in Week 5. They get their bye in Week 10 before visiting the Packers the following week. Week 12 sees them host the Texans on Monday night. They visit the Steelers in another primetime game in Week 14, and then end the season with two home games, against the Colts in Week 16 and the Bengals in Week 17. It looks like the Ravens have a fairly tough schedule, and I think they are looking at an eight- or nine-win season, so right around where they were last season, possibly a little better, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to play in the postseason.

Sources: http://www.baltimoreravens.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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Texans trade Osweiler on first day of NFL free agency

For the second straight season, the Texans made headlines on the first day of NFL free agency, but this time it was for getting rid of a player instead of signing one. Also making significant moves today were the Jaguars, Browns and Bears.

Last year, the Texans gave free-agent QB Brock Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract, but his performance this season left a lot to be desired and led many people to consider that one of the worst free-agent signings in NFL history. Texans GM Rick Smith righted that wrong today, trading Osweiler —  and the $16 million guaranteed to him for the 2017 season — along with their sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and a second-rounder next year to the Browns in exchange for Cleveland’s fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and, more importantly, salary-cap relief. Getting Osweiler’s salary off the books for this season gives the Texans more flexibility to potentially sign a quarterback. Reports have been running wild of late that Cowboys QB Tony Romo is on their radar, and moving Osweiler makes it seem like they are closing in acquiring Romo, either by trade or signing him if the Cowboys cut him.

For the Browns, it’s not exactly clear what they want with Osweiler. There have been reports that teams have already contacted them about possibly trading for the Browns’ newly acquired quarterback. The possibility also exists that the Browns could simply cut Osweiler and take the cap hit. They have plenty of cap room so it wouldn’t have a significant negative effect on them. If the Browns don’t keep Osweiler, they can use the No. 1 overall draft pick to get a quarterback or sign a veteran quarterback to act as a bridge to QB Cody Kessler when he’s ready to take the reins as the starter.

That trade wasn’t the only move the Browns made today, They also tried to bolster their offensive line by re-signing OL Joel Bitonio and signing free-agent OLs JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler to multi-year deals. They also signed WR Kenny Britt, who is coming off of a career year in 2016 with the Rams.

The Jaguars signed some free agents they hope to help their defense, signing CB A.J. Bouye, DE Calais Campbell, S Barry Church and LB Lerentee McCray, which should help them compete in the AFC South. The Bears made a quarterback swap today, releasing QB Jay Cutler and signing QB Mike Glennon to a three-year contract. They lost one of their key players on offense, though, as WR Alshon Jeffery signed with the Eagles.

Other notable players who changed teams today, either through free agency or trade, include:

WR DeSean JacksonBuccaneers
WR Torrey Smith — Eagles
RB Danny WoodheadRavens
CB Stephon GilmorePatriots
QB Brian Hoyer49ers
WR Pierre Garcon — 49ers
WR Brandon MarshallGiants
TE Julius ThomasDolphins
OT Branden Albert — Jaguars
OL Russell OkungChargers

In non-player news from today, the Redskins fired GM Scott McCloughan

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