AFC North: Shawn Lauvao

Free-agency primer: Browns

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: C Alex Mack (transition), S T.J. Ward, G Shawn Lauvao

Where they stand: The Cleveland Browns have a ton of salary-cap space and a ton of needs. The team hopes the transition tag keeps suitors from signing Mack, but they could have ensured he’d stay in Cleveland by simply paying another $1.6 million and making him the franchise player. If he leaves, that means the Browns have added another need to others that include safety, guard, inside linebacker, running back and receiver. They could go in any direction they choose in free agency, but given the strength of the draft at receiver, that is probably one area they will bypass.

What to expect: The Browns should be active on the free agent market. They have cap room, they have needs and they have an owner in Jimmy Haslam who has made no secret he feels this offseason is critical to the team’s future. Guessing what positions the Browns focus on might be foolish, but clearly they need help at safety, and they could go after Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd. They also need help at linebacker after the release of D'Qwell Jackson, and they need help at guard. The biggest splash might just come at running back, though, where a guy like Houston’s Ben Tate might appeal to Mike Pettine’s physical approach. As for the much-needed and discussed quarterback spot, look for the Browns to bypass free agency and look to the draft.

Jordan Cameron in, Joe Haden out

December, 29, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Browns will have tight end Jordan Cameron in the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they will not have cornerback Joe Haden. No doubt Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will notice that rookie Leon McFadden is playing corner.

Other lineup changes prompted by injury include rookie Garrett Gilkey and John Greco (back from a sprained knee) starting at guard; Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston are both out with concussions. On the defensive line, Phil Taylor is out with a concussion. Ishmaa'ily Kitchen will replace him at noseguard, with Billy Winn starting at end.

Thomas: Alex Mack has great value

December, 27, 2013
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Take a good look at the Cleveland Browns' offensive line on Sunday.

It’s debatable how many linemen will be back. If it weren’t so hard to completely retool, the case could be made that the Browns will have four new starters in 2014 to go with left tackle Joe Thomas.

That’s a stretch, of course, and a good deal of speculation.

But the Browns haven’t seemed enamored with their guards all season, there’s been a lot of rumblings about the inconsistencies of right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and center Alex Mack is slated to be a free agent.

[+] EnlargeAlex Mack
Ron Schwane/USA TODAY SportsThe Browns have the salary-cap space to match likely any offer for standout center Alex Mack.
Nothing is known, of course, and there is a game yet to be played. But Mack’s potential departure seems the most significant. With Maurkice Pouncey injured, there is a lot of talk that Mack is one of the three or four best centers playing.

“Cleveland’s a very easy place to come back to,” Mack said. “I like the coach. I like the players. I have a house here. Without a doubt it would be easy to come back.”

But Mack, like safety T.J. Ward, also has the opportunity to decide where he wants to play, and since he was Eric Mangini’s first-round pick the team has gone 19-65. The Browns could place the franchise tag on Mack -- they have the salary-cap room -- but the new CBA calls for him to be paid the average of the top five offensive linemen, not centers. That number will approach $10 million, and Joe Banner’s history has not been to overpay.

Thomas feels it’s important to keep Mack with the Browns.

“Very few people really understand how many things the center is actually responsible for,” Thomas said. “Obviously the quarterback has the ball in his hands and he’s the guy who ultimately makes the decisions. But when it comes to setting the protections and setting the blocking in the run game, nobody has more on their plate than the center.

“[Mack is] probably the best that I’ve seen and has to be one of the best in the NFL at understanding the mental side of the game and getting everybody on the same page blocking wise.”

Guard Shawn Lauvao was drafted the same year as Mack, and the feeling is the team will let him get to free agency.

“You take it with a grain of salt,” Lauvao said. “If they want to bring me back, so be it. If they don’t, I feel like [free agency is] a great opportunity.”

The Browns do have John Greco signed for next season, and he could play center. Schwartz is still playing under his rookie contract. But the team discussed trading for Eugene Monroe of Jacksonville during the season.

The team’s wild card is Chris Faulk, a 6-foot-6 and 323-pound player recovering from a serious knee injury he hurt in his senior season at LSU. The Browns signed him as an undrafted free agent and want to take a long look at him for next season.

Inactives: Spiller in, Weeden No. 2

October, 3, 2013
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Brandon Weeden will be the backup quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, and running back C.J. Spiller is active and will play tonight for the Buffalo Bills. That's the fallout from the team's inactives list, which were just released.

Browns inactives include quarterback Jason Campbell, which makes Weeden the backup to Brian Hoyer. Also inactive are injured linebackers Quentin Groves (ankle) and Jabaal Sheard (knee) as well as defensive lineman Billy Winn. Newly-acquired running Fozzy Whittaker will not play, nor will offensive linemen Martin Wallace and Patrick Lewis. Shawn Lauvao is active, and likely will start at right guard. Lauvao has not played since injuring an ankle in training camp, and his replacement, Oniel Cousins, had mixed results, especially in pass protection. Lauvao's return means the Browns have their first-team offensive line in place for the first time this season.

Buffalo will not have safety Jairus Byrd active. He practiced the past two days, but his foot injury will sideline him. Other inactives include cornerback Stephon Gilmore, kicker Dustin Hopkins, cornerback Ron Brooks, offensive lineman Sam Young, receiver Marquise Goodwin and tight end Chris Gragg. Both Spiller and running back Fred Jackson will play through pain, Jackson with a knee and Spiller with an ankle. It's likely the Bills will give Tashard Choice more carries than any back.

Browns links: More wrong turns

September, 17, 2013
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A look at what's happening on the Cleveland Browns' beat:
  • Wide receiver Greg Little returned home from the loss in Baltimore and was cited by police early Monday morning for three traffic violations in a single stop, according to The Plain Dealer. This is the third time he’s been cited since April.
  • Injured right guard Shawn Lauvao was involved in a single-vehicle accident Monday morning, The Akron Beacon Journal reported. Lauvao was heading to the team’s training facility when he went the wrong way on a ramp closed for construction. He tried to turn around and went over a curb and an embankment, according to the report. A team spokesman told the paper that no alcohol was involved and Lauvao wasn't injured.
  • Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who returned from a two-game suspension, confirmed Monday that he's facing a banishment from the NFL for at least a year if he violates the substance-abuse policy again. "I think that's what it is," he told The Plain Dealer. "I believe so."
  • If you want to find hope with the Browns, Vic Carucci of the team's official website suggests you look at the defense. "More specifically, the front seven in which the team’s new leadership made its biggest investment in talent to go along with the hiring of defensive coordinator Ray Horton," Carucci wrote. "Based on what they’ve shown in the last two weeks, they have the makings of a dominant group."
  • Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo played 35 percent of the Browns' defensive snaps (25 of 63) in his NFL regular-season debut, according to The Akron Beacon Journal.
BEREA, Ohio -- Here are some news and notes from Monday's practice at Cleveland Browns training camp ...
  • With all eyes on Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson returning to practice, the team watched another starter on offense carted off the field Monday. Right guard Shawn Lauvao went down with an ankle injury on 1-on-1 drills after being bull-rushed by defensive tackle Phil Taylor. Coach Rob Chudzinski didn't immediately know the severity of the injury. If there is any consolation, this is at a position where the Browns have depth. Jason Pinkston, a starter last year before a blood clot in his lung sidelined him, would replace Lauvao.
  • Richardson was limited in his first practice since Thursday. He was in briefly on goal-line drills, where he was dropped for a loss on a pitch to the left side. Richardson was then held out of the two-minute offense before returning briefly for the 7-on-7 part of practice. Asked whether Richardson would play in Thursday's preseason opener, Chudzinski said, "I have not decided on anything in terms of Thursday night in regards to Trent."
  • The Browns have Chris Ogbonnaya listed as the starting fullback on their depth chart, and he certainly has the edge over Owen Marecic. But I thought it was interesting to see the Browns go with Marecic as the lead blocker in the goal-line drills. Chudzinski on Ogbonnaya: "“He’s a very versatile guy. He’s able to play tailback and run the ball. He can play fullback and he can block. He can pass protect and catch passes. He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things. Those types of guys you can find roles for and they can help you win.”
  • If the Browns allowed contact on their quarterbacks, Paul Kruger would have had three sacks in the two-minute drill. He repeatedly beat right tackle Mitchell Schwartz before pulling up when he reached quarterback Brandon Weeden. Kruger stood out more than Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo on Monday.
  • Neither Weeden nor Jason Campbell looked sharp in the two-minute drill. They were hesitant to push the ball downfield and instead dropped the ball underneath. Campbell drew offensive coordinator Norv Turner's ire when he missed an open tight end down the middle of the field.
Some good news from Browns minicamp Thursday: guard Jason Pinkston is back on the field.

This marks the first participation for Pinkston since he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung on Oct. 19. He was cleared medically last month, but he sat out the team's first minicamp four weeks ago.

Pinkston, though, wasn't working with the starters. According to The Plain Dealer, last year’s starting right guard, Shawn Lauvao, is lining up at Pinkston’s old left guard spot and John Greco, who replaced Pinkston at left guard last season, is at right guard.

I wouldn't read too much into the lineup on May 16. It looks like the Browns want to ease Pinkston back into the lineup. If he returns to the level he was playing at last year, he should be the starter again this year. Pinkston has started every game, all 22 of them, since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2011.

If the Browns are going to make a change on the offensive line, I would replace Lauvao, who committed eight penalties and allowed three sacks last year, with Greco.

The Browns decided not to upgrade the guard position this offseason. They declined to pursue a free agent like Louis Vasquez and didn't draft an offensive lineman until the seventh round.

Still, the Browns have the best offensive line in the division, with tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz along with center Alex Mack.

AFC North's best bargains

September, 5, 2012
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On Monday, the AFC North blog addressed who got paid the most in the division. Now, let's look at the other end of the salary spectrum. This blog entry is all about the starters (and specialists) who average less than $1 million per season over the life of their contract.

Here's a look at the lowest-paid projected starters (and specialists) in the AFC North in terms of average per year:

BENGALS

WR Armon Binns: $415,000

P Kevin Huber: $486,350

DT Geno Atkins: $565,613

WR Brandon Tate: $631,920

DE Carlos Dunlap: $754,500

S Taylor Mays: $824,500

DE Michael Johnson: $875,255

BROWNS

S Eric Hagg: $520,100

G Jason Pinkston: $577,00

FB Owen Marecic: $612,000

G Shawn Lauvao: $672,630

WR Greg Little: $831,875

WR Mohamed Massaquoi: $908,931

S T.J. Ward: $966,250

RAVENS

DE Arthur Jones: $449,527

OLB Albert McClellan: $465,000

K Justin Tucker: $480,000

TE Ed Dickson: $625,833

OLB Paul Kruger: $687,500

NT Terrence Cody: $727,500

WR Torrey Smith: $847,308

STEELERS

P Drew Butler: $481,667

RB Isaac Redman: $540,000

NT Steve McLendon: $540,000

OT Marcus Gilbert: $806,854

OT Max Starks: $825,000
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

None of the Steelers' free agents have signed elsewhere, but starting cornerback William Gay has suddenly become popular.

Gay, who started 15 games last season for Pittsburgh, visited the Cardinals on Monday and is scheduled to meet with the Titans on Tuesday. This comes a few days after Gay said he wanted to stay with the Steelers and the team had expressed interest in retaining him.

It was only last year when Gay was an unrestricted free agent during a lockout-shortened offseason and drew little interest. Gay eventually signed a one-year deal with Pittsburgh before training camp.

Hensley's slant: The Steelers don't seem too concerned about losing Gay, one of the bigger surprises for last year's top-ranked pass defense. Pittsburgh, which also cut Bryant McFadden, apparently will rely on Ike Taylor, along with younger players like restricted free agent Keenan Lewis and two players who were rookies a year ago, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen.

BENGALS: Reggie Nelson, who signed his four-year deal Monday, explained why he chose the Bengals over the New York Jets. "Both Marvin [Lewis] and [Jets coach) Rex [Ryan] were in Baltimore together and they can both be very persuasive," Nelson told Cincinnati reporters, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "But in the end, I like what Marvin and Zim [defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer] are doing and what the team has accomplished.” The Bengals hosted four free agents Monday: running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, tight end Joel Dreessen, defensive end Derrick Harvey and cornerback Terence Newman. Running back Michael Bush will complete his visit Tuesday. Hensley's slant: You can't accuse the Bengals of being cheap this time. Nelson will earn $6.5 million this year (which includes base salary and bonuses), which is more than the franchise tag ($6.2 million) and more than what LaRon Landry received from the Jets (one year for $4 million). Now, Nelson has to keep playing like he did last year and live up to the contract.

BROWNS: Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao will "almost certainly" be the starting guards for a second straight season, according to the Canton Repository. Pinkson was a rookie fifth-round pick a year ago, and Lauvao was drafted in the third round in 2010. “Hopefully, those guys improve and play even better than they played last year," general manager Tom Heckert said. Hensley's slant: The right side of the line is a concern with Lauvao and the current hole at right tackle. Lauvao gave up 4.5 sacks and committed eight penalties in his first full season as a starter. It's unknown what the Browns plan to do at tackle after injured Tony Pashos was cut and Artis Hicks signed with Miami. Oniel Cousins isn't the answer there.

RAVENS: Matt Birk, who signed his three-year deal Monday after passing his physical, said the reports of him leaving the game were somewhat exaggerated. He will be entering his 15th season. "I’ll probably always have that desire to play," Birk told the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "Let me just say the reports that I was seriously contemplating retirement, that never came from me. I did say I’d think about it, but that’s just natural. You take a little time to heal up emotionally, physically and mentally and decide if you can do it again. I talked about it with my family and I did some serious thinking. I’m of the mindset that I’m always going to do it until I can't. It’s a process. It takes time. Yeah, I’m back, but I really never left.” Hensley's slant: It's hard to imagine Birk playing all three years of this new deal at the age of 35. But I was wrong before. Count me among the ones who thought Birk was going to retire this offseason. Still, it makes a lot of sense for the Ravens to think about drafting a center this year.
Even quarterbacks aren't excluded from the NFL discipline police.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was fined $7,500 for making a horse-collar tackle last Sunday in Seattle. After throwing an interception deep in his own territory, Flacco stopped Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne four yards shy of the end zone by making the illegal tackle.

Flacco's fine is much less than the $15,000 one delivered to Troy Polamalu in September, when the Steelers safety made a horse-collar tackle on Ravens running back Ricky Williams.

In addition to Flacco, Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones was fined $7,500 for his unnecessary roughness penalty on a special teams play by blocking an opponent low.

For the Cleveland Browns, guard Shawn Lauvao was fined $7,500 for head-butting Brian Cushing, which opened up a blood-gushing gash on the Texans linebacker's face.

Top Browns draft since 2000

March, 10, 2011
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The AFC North blog continues its series on the top draft classes of the past decade. Thursday we take a look at the Cleveland Browns.

No. 3: Class of 2007

Best picks: OT Joe Thomas (first round), CB Eric Wright (second round)

Thomas

Thomas


Analysis: This was not a stellar draft for the Browns, but Cleveland has the slimmest pickings of all division teams. So 2007 made the cut. The Browns hit a home run with Thomas with the No. 3 overall pick. Thomas has been to four straight Pro Bowls and is one of the best at his position. Despite Wright's struggles this past season, he was a starting cornerback for Cleveland and turned out to be a decent second-rounder. The Browns also drafted cornerback Brandon McDonald in the fifth round, and he was a contributor for three seasons. The biggest miss in this draft was first-round quarterback Brady Quinn. He was expected to be the long-term solution, but was shipped to the Denver Broncos after three uneventful seasons for tailback Peyton Hillis.

No. 2: Class of 2006

Best picks: LB Kamerion Wimbley, LB D'Qwell Jackson, FB Lawrence Vickers (sixth round)

Wimbley

Wimbley


Analysis: The second draft of the Phil Savage-Romeo Crennel era in Cleveland turned out to be the best. The Browns landed two starting linebackers in Wimbley and Jackson. Wimbley never quite lived up to expectations, but recorded 26.5 sacks in four seasons with the Browns. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders last year and recorded nine sacks. Jackson led the Browns in tackles in 2008 and had two 100-tackle seasons before suffering a pair of pectoral injuries. Vickers is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL and a great find in the sixth round. The Browns also drafted fifth-round tailback Jerome Harrison, who showed flashes before falling out of favor in Cleveland and being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Regime changes resulted in some of these players having to switch teams, but this was a solid class.

No. 1: Class of 2010

Best picks: CB Joe Haden (first round), S T.J. Ward (second round), QB Colt McCoy (third round)

McCoy

McCoy


Analysis: I'm going out on a limb, but I think the 2010 class will be Cleveland's best of the past 10 years. As you can see, this class doesn't have too much to compete with. The first two picks -- Haden and Ward -- have great ability and project to be longtime starters in the secondary. McCoy showed some good things and is vying to be Cleveland's franchise quarterback, although he still has a lot to prove. The Browns also have two rookies in tailback Montario Hardesty and guard Shawn Lauvao who could turn out to be good players. Hardesty is coming off a torn ACL, and Lauvao got mostly backup time in 10 games last season.

On Friday we will conclude our series by ranking the best overall draft classes in the division.

Walker's weekend mailbag

September, 18, 2010
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Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Eddie from Charlotte, N.C., wants to know if there should be concern that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon stayed in the pocket too much last week.

James Walker: That's a great question, Eddie, and it's something that I have mixed feelings about. Dixon only rushed for four yards on two attempts against the Atlanta Falcons. But he's only doing what Pittsburgh's coaching staff wants. The Steelers want Dixon to spend more time in the pocket going through his second and sometimes third reads. His tendency is to make the first read, and if it's not there, Dixon takes off. Pittsburgh doesn't want to run its offense that way. But I think, to some degree, the team also is taking away Dixon's best asset, which helps the defense. Dixon is not a pocket passer. I think the Steelers should let "Dennis be Dennis" a little more, and allow him to scramble for first downs. It would help the offense.


Steve from Johnsonburg, Pa., writes: I know this is a long shot, but is there any way the Steelers could bring Logan Mankins to Pittsburgh?

Walker: Nope. Pittsburgh is finished negotiating contracts for the 2010 season. A trade and major signing would be way out of character of the Steelers. It's not happening.


Alex from Madison, Wis., wants to know how much cornerback Lardarius Webb's return will help the Baltimore Ravens.

Walker: Webb's expected return Sunday could not have come at a better time. Baltimore's secondary was fortunate to face Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets in Week 1. The Ravens were thin in the secondary and New York struggles to go vertical on offense. But the Bengals have a legitimate threat at quarterback in Carson Palmer and plenty of receivers to potentially give Baltimore headaches. The Ravens will need Webb, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr and Josh Wilson to all play well this week.


GPaych via Twitter writes: You think Ray Lewis was trying to send a message with that hit on Dustin Keller on that last drive?

Walker: Absolutely. Lewis, perhaps more than anyone, did not enjoy the Jets' bravado and constant talking leading up to the game. After the Ravens' D played lights out for four quarters, Lewis delivered a parting shot for the Jets to remember.


Tyler R. Smith from Palm Springs, Calif., writes: I have a fantasy football team and I have Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford and Aaron Rodgers. But I found Carson Palmer sitting as a free agent. Should I keep Flacco or trade him for Palmer?

Walker: I would pick up Palmer and release Sam Bradford. Rodgers, Flacco and Palmer are a very strong group of quarterbacks.


Joseph from Los Angeles wants to know if Eric Mangini put too much pressure on the passing game in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Walker: Between Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, yes, too much pressure was put on the passing game. Jake Delhomme threw 37 times against the Bucs. The Browns led by 11 points in the second quarter and it was close the entire game, but Delhomme was playing on a gimpy ankle the entire second half. Cleveland's coaching staff failed to make the proper adjustments at halftime and it cost them. The offense went scoreless in the second half.


Eddie Kilroy from Brunswick, Ohio, wants to know how the right side of Cleveland's offensive line can improve.

Walker: This is a trouble spot for the Browns. Offensive tackle John St. Clair and guard Floyd Womack played poorly last week, and I'm not sure they are the answer on the right side for the next 15 games. Cleveland's coaching staff likes rookie guard Shawn Lauvao's potential, but he's been banged up with a bad ankle. When Lauvao gets healthy, look for him to at least get into the rotation on the right side and possibly earn a starting job later in the season.


Comment and complaint department

Chris Carpenter from Cincinnati writes: To whom it may concern on the Bengals, I would appreciate it if you would play football. The season started last Sunday. Your physical abilities are great; however, your mental execution was that of a Pee Wee team. You are able to play better. Your fans deserve a better product on the field. On a related note with the upcoming CBA issues: The owners may sign your checks, but the fans are really the ones who pay you. The owners will be rich with or without football. Just food for thought while you played like crap. A concerned fan.

Jason from Cocoa, Fla., writes: James, the biggest argument coming from "Bengaldom" is that they went 6-0 in the division last year. My question is, what does that have to do with 2010? Absolutely nothing. I know there are Ravens fans, and I as a Steelers fan, that feel Cincinnati had a lot of fortunate things occur in their wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh last year. That is why I have picked them to finish third in the division. I just don't see them getting lucky two years in a row. The Ravens and Steelers are just more talented. Pittsburgh put a whipping on the Bengals last year in both games, only to blow the lead late in the game. That's nothing special on Cincy's part.

Brad from Atlanta writes: JW, when did the Bengals start getting so much respect? They looked horrific in their season opener and now they are playing one of the Super Bowl favorites and still half of ESPN's experts picked them to win. I've been a Bengals fan for a long time and, typically, when the Bengals get stomped like they did last week, everyone starts referring to them as the Bungles of old.

Chris from Annapolis, Md., writes: Is Pittsburgh top 10? Maybe not right now, but defense does win championships. Pittsburgh just needs to win one of the next three to be in solid shape for Ben Roethlisberger's return.

Butch from San Antonio writes: What makes you think Dallas and Washington are better teams than Pittsburgh? I am assuming defense, because neither team has much of an offense. The Steelers won with a third-stringer that alone should speak volumes as to the will of this team to overcome the Big Ben controversy. What is the excuse for the ineptitude of Dallas and Washington on offense?

Champ from District Heights, Md. writes: Real simple: I know it's not your division but how about them REDSKINS?

Shaneeka from High Point, N.C., writes: James, I know you like to look at history and records to make your picks, as evidence of your constant reminder of Carson Palmer's record vs. the Ravens and the Ravens' recent record vs. the Steelers. So, I thought I'd point out this nugget for you, the last time the Ravens won the season opener and missed the playoffs was 1996, their first NFL season.

Josiah from Baltimore writes: I can't wait until the Pats put the Jets down this Sunday so I can stop hearing about Jets this, Rex Ryan that. Really, JW, can you like tell some of your colleagues to cool it on the Jets. It's getting old. It was OK before the season started when we needed some storylines during training camp, but now it's time for REAL football, and there is a lot more going on in the league then the Jets and Rex Ryan's mouth. I think all the AFC North bloggers and fans can agree with me when I say NOBODY CARES OUTSIDE NEW YORK.

Kovacs from Santa Monica, Calif., writes: Brian Daboll is infuriating. I know the guys need to execute, but did it seem like Daboll's game plan was awful in the second half? The Browns had a lot of success attacking the edges with the run and getting some quick hitters in the passing game. Second half was a lot of runs up the middle and deep drops. He's got to adjust better.

Andy from Canada writes: Since when does Cleveland run a pass-first offense? The ratio of pass to run this weekend boggled my mind. This is not Mangini/BD's offense. There is more Mike Holmgren influence here than they let on, and it's not good. Tampa Bay was awful against the run last year and the Browns made them look great. Last year the QB never would have had a shot at throwing that late first-half pick, because they would have ran the ball into field goal range. For the Browns to have a shot at home against Kansas City two ratios have to increase: run to pass and Jerome Harrison to Peyton Hillis.

AFC North Homer of the Week

(Editor's note: I knew our community wouldn't fail me this week.)

1977BROWNS writes: How about this Walker: Take your Ravens and Bengals and stay on that bandwagon. I don't want to hear or see you…backing the Browns after they go 5-3 or better halfway through the season. We have a tough schedule but we will make the best of it. I believe in the Browns making the playoffs and I know you think that they will finish dead last in the AFC North this season. Take the past and all the stats which don't amount to a hill of beans. Holmgren and Jake will get this ship righted and look out. You and a lot more people may be eating their words in just a few weeks. Go Browns. As a writer I know you have to be the bad guy in this division, but the underdog will upset your predictions this year. The Browns and Steelers will finish first and second in the AFC North this season. If I am wrong then I will…take it like a real loyal fan. If I'm right, then I expect the same from you as a writer.

AFC North rookie surprises

June, 22, 2010
6/22/10
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Jordan ShipleyFrank Victores/US PresswireJordan Shipley stood out at Cincinnati's recent minicamp and could be a contender to be the Bengals' No. 3 receiver.
Every year there are rookies around the league who, seemingly out of nowhere, quickly develop and contribute to their respective teams. Pittsburgh Steelers receiver and 2009 third-round pick Mike Wallace was a perfect example last season.

So who could be this year's version of Wallace in the AFC North?

Here are seven rookies drafted in the third round or lower who could surprise in 2010:

1. Jordan Shipley, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Draft status: Third round (No. 84 overall)

Analysis: Shipley was one of the stars of Cincinnati's mandatory minicamp last week. The receiver caught everything from the slot position and already looks like a good fit for the Bengals' offense. Shipley has a knack for manipulating the middle of the field and finding openings in coverage. Cincinnati has lacked this type of receiver since the departure of T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Look for Shipley to have a good competition with third-year veteran Andre Caldwell for the No. 3 receiver spot behind Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant.

2. Ed Dickson, TE, Baltimore Ravens

Draft status: Third round (No. 70 overall)

[+] EnlargeDennis Pitta
Tim Heitman/US PresswireDennis Pitta will battle with fellow rookie tight end Ed Dickson for playing time in the Ravens' offense.
Analysis: Dickson was one of the top receiving tight ends in this year's draft, and he should be able to stretch the field for Baltimore's offense. At this point, Dickson is a luxury as a backup to starter Todd Heap. That should allow the Ravens to bring Dickson along and only put him in positions to be successful. He will have an interesting competition with rookie teammate Dennis Pitta, who is also on this list.

3. Carlton Mitchell, WR, Cleveland Browns

Draft status: Sixth round (No. 177 overall)

Analysis: Someone has to catch passes in Cleveland. Why not Mitchell? The Browns have arguably the worst receiving depth in the league. So this is a good opportunity for Mitchell to step up and impress Cleveland's coaching staff in training camp. He’s a bit unpolished but has good size and a good burst. If Mitchell can show some potential, that could be enough to earn playing time in Cleveland's offense, which is lacking playmakers.

4. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers

Draft status: Third round (No. 82 overall)

Analysis: The Steelers found Wallace in the third round last year. Could they find another solid contributor in the third round this season with Sanders? Pittsburgh's receiving depth took a hit with the offseason trade of Santonio Holmes and the season-ending Achilles injury to Limas Sweed. Each instance has moved Sanders up the depth chart. Wallace and Hines Ward are the starters, and veteran Antwaan Randle El probably is set as the No. 3 receiver. But Pittsburgh will give Sanders an opportunity in training camp to earn a role with the team.

5. Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens

Draft status: Fourth round (No. 114 overall)

Analysis: In a bit of a surprise move, the Ravens took tight ends in back-to-back rounds. The organization felt the value for Pitta in the fourth round was too good to pass up. He had outstanding production at Brigham Young, and what Pitta lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with savvy and great hands. Pitta will compete with Dickson to back up Heap. The Ravens only need one of these rookies to pan out this season and put up numbers in what should be a very good offense.

6. Shawn Lauvao, G, Browns

Draft status: Third round (No. 92 overall)

[+] EnlargeJonothan Dwyer
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMIJonathan Dwyer could make an impact for the Steelers in the red zone.
Analysis: The middle and left side of Cleveland's offensive line are set with tackle Joe Thomas, guard Eric Steinbach and center Alex Mack. But the two right positions are still undecided, which provides an opportunity for third-rounder Lauvao to produce in his rookie year. For what it's worth, Lauvao has looked good in non-contact practices and is getting quality reps in Cleveland's offense. But it's difficult to mark the progress of offensive linemen until there's full contact in training camp. Browns coach Eric Mangini likes to use various linemen in games, so Lauvao could see playing time regardless.

7. Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft status: Sixth round (No. 188 overall)

Analysis: Dwyer was very productive in college, rushing for 1,395 yards and averaging 5.9 yards per carry at Georgia Tech last season. But right now, Pittsburgh is more interested in Dwyer's nose for the end zone; he rushed for 26 touchdowns the past two seasons. The Steelers lacked a short-yardage running back who could move the chains last year. The team also struggled in the red zone, and if Dwyer proves he can move the pile, he could have an immediate role with Pittsburgh.

Not all of these players will surprise in their rookie year, but there's a decent chance some from this group will be productive.

Which mid- to late-round draft pick do you think will surprise in 2010?
Colt McCoyRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesColt McCoy's biggest strength -- his accuracy -- fits perfectly with the Browns.
BEREA, Ohio -- Former University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy admits his NFL draft experience made for a very long day.

McCoy waited for three rounds as he was drafted much lower than expected. But in the end, he landed at the location many predicted when the Cleveland Browns selected the quarterback with the No. 85 overall pick.

Cleveland was not shy about its admiration for McCoy. He had an excellent visit and instant chemistry with the Browns' brass, and McCoy's biggest strength -- his accuracy -- fits perfectly with the Browns, who plan to install principles of the West Coast offense this season.

In addition, Cleveland got its quarterback at a tremendous bargain late in the third round. The feisty McCoy said every team passing him by will only help in the long run.

"I will definitely use it as motivation," McCoy said. "You can put everything else in a bag, all the teams that passed me and decided to go different ways. I understand the needs of teams but I'm obviously confident in my abilities as a quarterback."

The pairing of the Browns and McCoy looked unlikely as the draft unfolded Friday. Cleveland went with other needs in the second round, selecting safety T.J. Ward and tailback Montario Hardesty. With the latter pick, the Browns traded up for Hardesty at No. 59 overall and then had a long wait to take McCoy at No. 85.

Cleveland made it a point not to reach for a quarterback because it was not an immediate need with veteran Jake Delhomme the starter in 2010. But the Browns also ran the risk of missing out on their potential long-term solution at the league's most important position.

"In Colt's case, I really didn’t think he would be available to us," said Browns president Mike Holmgren, who admits he was very influential with this particular selection. "I thought he would be gone before we had a chance to pick him."

McCoy has a few knocks against him. He lacks the ideal size and height for an NFL quarterback, which is a major reason he fell into the third round. There are also some questions about arm strength, particularly playing for a cold-weather team like Cleveland.

But the positives far outweighed the negatives in Cleveland's eyes. Holmgren said McCoy has all of the intangibles you look for in a quarterback. McCoy is a natural leader, a hard worker and set an NCAA record with 45 wins as starter.

McCoy's intention is to bring all of those things to Cleveland and reach his potential.

"When my name is called, I'm going to go out there and produce and I'm going to be the best," McCoy said. "That's how I was raised. That's how I was coached, and I'm fired up."

Holmgren knew when he arrived in Cleveland that he had quite a rebuilding project ahead of him. He's already drafted a cornerback (Joe Haden), a safety (Ward), a running back (Hardesty) and an offensive lineman (Shawn Lauvao).

But finding a quarterback is probably the most important part of Holmgren's rebuilding phase.

Holmgren knows quarterbacks. And if McCoy turns out to be his latest find, that would mark significant progress for this struggling franchise.

"We can't fix everything in one year," Holmgren said. "But hopefully we took a good step."

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