AFC West: Cleveland Browns

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April, 22, 2014
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Live blog: Browns at Chiefs

October, 27, 2013
Join our NFL experts as they break down the Cleveland Browns' visit to the Kansas City Chiefs. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.
Josh Gordon and Tamba Hali Getty ImagesJosh Gordon and the Cleveland offense have their work cut out for them against Tamba Hali and the undefeated Chiefs.
The 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team and could use a victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are one game ahead of the Denver Broncos in the AFC West race, and following a Nov. 3 game against the Bills in Buffalo, their schedule takes a decidedly more difficult turn.

The Browns rallied from an 0-2 start to win three consecutive games, but after losing quarterback Brian Hoyer for the season with a knee injury, they’ve lost two straight, allowing 31 points in each loss.

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Browns reporter Pat McManamon discuss Sunday’s game.

Teicher: Browns coach Rob Chudzinski announced Wednesday Jason Campbell will take over for Brandon Weeden at quarterback. This is the third time in four weeks that the Chiefs will face an opponent starting a different quarterback than the week before. Against an aggressive defense that gets after the passer and creates turnovers like Kansas City’s, will the Browns benefit from a change to Campbell?

McManamon: In this case, the Browns might be better off pondering the single wing, because neither Campbell nor Weeden is especially adept at avoiding the rush. In many ways, this is the worst possible matchup for the Browns' quarterbacks. One hasn't played, and the other's confidence is lacking in a big way. Campbell is probably a little more mobile than Weeden, but that's because Weeden is more like the Statue of Liberty. The way the Browns are at quarterback, there's no reason to think the Chiefs won't add significantly to their sack total.

While we're discussing sacks and the Chiefs' defense, Adam, what is the key to that sacking onslaught this season? Is it players, new players, new scheme, speed, a combination of all or something different? Did you see this coming?

Teicher: I can’t say I saw this coming, but they had the pieces to have a strong pass rush. They just needed better direction, and they’re getting that from Bob Sutton, their new defensive coordinator. They’re creative with their blitzes but are getting pressure even when they send four or fewer players after the quarterback. The Chiefs have 35 sacks, and 24 have come when rushing four or fewer players. The key is nose tackle Dontari Poe, who is generating a nice, consistent push up the middle. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are good edge pass-rushers, but the Chiefs have a lot of other guys capable of putting pressure on the quarterback. Neither inside linebacker Derrick Johnson nor strong safety Eric Berry blitz a lot, but they’re effective when they do.

Statistically, the Browns look like they’re playing good defense -- solid against the rush, opposing quarterbacks not lighting it up against them. So how is it they’re allowing a little under 30 points over their past three games?

McManamon: File this under the old "numbers can be deceiving" category. It's tough to say a team that has given up 24, 31 and 31 points in the past three weeks is playing good defense because points allowed is the single most important defensive statistic. The Browns' main problem is third downs. They can't get off the field. Overall, the Browns are tied with Seattle for the league lead in yards per play (4.5), but they are 29th in third downs (opponents converting 45.3 percent). Because of that, the Browns have 492 defensive snaps, fourth highest in the league. That's what happens when a team's offense is struggling and its defense can't get off the field.

Speaking of deceiving, Alex Smith completes 58 percent of his throws, 28th in the league. His yards per attempt ranks 29th (6.28). How are the Chiefs undefeated at this point with their quarterback so low in these important numbers?

Teicher: That speaks to the strength of their defense. Defense has carried the Chiefs through these seven games, and offense has just been along for the ride. But for the Chiefs to remain undefeated much longer or go deep into the playoffs, those numbers have to improve. That’s where the potential growth in Kansas City’s offense lies, particularly with Smith’s completion percentage. Smith doesn’t throw a lot of passes way beyond the line of scrimmage, so his percentage should be much higher. He’s certainly capable. He completed 70 percent for the San Francisco 49ers last year. Receivers aren’t dropping a high percentage of passes. Protection has been a problem at times. He has had to unload before he’s ready on a number of attempts. Another problem has been the inability of receivers to consistently get open.

Willis McGahee leads the Browns in rushing but is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. Does he have anything left at this point in his career, and can the Browns take some pressure off their quarterback Sunday by having a consistent running game against a defense that, despite the numbers, has played well against the run?

McManamon: Not really on both counts. McGahee gives what he has, but there's a reason he was available to sign when the Browns traded Trent Richardson. McGahee has little speed; Norv Turner joked he could go outside as long as he starts inside. But he can burrow for 3 or 4 yards if he has to. The problem is how much he can play. He had 26 carries against Buffalo but just 21 the past two games combined. He hasn't averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry in a game this season. The other options are stretches: Chris Ogbonnaya's value is in pass protection, and Fozzy Whittaker is ... well ... Fozzy Whittaker. The Browns had their reasons for trading Richardson, but their lack of a legitimate running game will cost them as the season continues.

The Browns have had a revolving door with their coach. Why do you think Andy Reid's voice is being heard so well in Kansas City?

Teicher: He walked in the door with some impressive credentials, better than those of any Chiefs coach since Dick Vermeil and just two players remain from Vermeil's time in Kansas City. So Reid immediately had everyone’s attention. The other thing was that so many of the players were ready to be led in a positive direction. They were tired of losing and tired of people within the organization having different agendas and pulling in different directions. They were ready to buy into something positive. It helped Reid that the Chiefs had an easy early-season schedule and took advantage of it. I wonder how this would have gone had the Chiefs started losing games to some lousy teams right away.

Demetrius Harris is far from a small-dunk to make the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster, but the undrafted rookie has impressed head coach Andy Reid.

Asked if any young players were standing out in organized team activities and Reid named Harris to reporters Friday.

“Harris has done a nice job,” Reid said. “He came in as a basketball player and has just gotten better and better every day. You see him out here making plays. I’m sure you guys noticed that. I’m proud of him for the way he’s worked, that’s not an easy transition.”

That is encouraging for Harris and the Chiefs. Kansas City signed the former University Milwaukee-Wisconsin basketball player after the draft as a project. Several teams looked at Harris, but he signed with the Chiefs partly because general manager John Dorsey showed early interest in him. Harris had a chance to play football at Arkansas State and he was standout in high school.

It will be a long road for the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Harris to make the transition from college hoopster to NFL tight end, but has been done before. Reid just wants to see the youngster continue to work.

“To learn, just learn,” Reid said when asked what Harris needs to do moving forward. “We saw the athleticism. John Dorsey, that was his guy and he saw the ability there. He had been a real good high school receiver so you bring him in and give him a shot. That’s what those are all about -- those tryout positions. He came in and stayed in and made the most of it so far.”

Unless he completely falls off, I bet Harris is going to be earmarked for the practice squad where he can continue to grow in the Kansas City program. He will definitely be a player to monitor during training camp.

In other AFC West notes:

New San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is excited about working with quarterback Philip Rivers.

Kansas City star running back Jamaal Charles had his toe stepped on during an OTA practice Friday. ESPN’s Ed Werder reports Charles is expected to be fine. The Kansas City Star reports X-rays came back negative.

The Denver Post reports the Broncos have hired John Spytek to their scouting department. He was the Browns’ director of college scouting under Tom Heckert, who is now in Denver’s front office.

The Patriots released guard Tyronne Green. He was a starter on the Chargers last season and had recently signed with New England. The new San Diego brass didn’t have interest in him this offseason.

Here’s a piece of history every Broncos’ fan might (or might not) want. A game-day barrel worn by the actual Barrel Man, the most famous Bronco fan of them all. It’s all yours on eBay. Go get bidding (or not).
A day after New York Jets general manager John Idzik said he didn’t think Josh Cribbs was healthy, the aging but dynamic return man has signed with the Oakland Raiders.

The longtime Cleveland receiver/returner nearly signed with Arizona earlier in free agency, but he was recovering from a knee injury. He started visiting teams last week with the Raiders being the first team he visited. He visited three other teams, including the Jets. The fact that Cribbs may not be completely healthy right now is not a huge deal. He will get there.

Oakland will look at Cribbs primarily as a return man. He is tied for the most career kick returns for a touchdown in NFL history with eight. Cribbs, who will turn 30 next month, is primarily a returner. He has had more than 23 catches in a season just once when he had 41 in 2011.

I don’t see this as being a bad signing for Oakland. It’s a low-risk move. If Cribbs still has something in the tank, he can help the team.

It is also insurance in case Jacoby Ford can’t return from a foot injury that kept him out for the 2012 season and for six games in the previous season. Ford and Cribbs are similar players, with Ford giving more in the passing game. But it could come down to keeping either player, especially if some rookie receiver like Brice Butler or Conner Vernon makes a huge push to make the 53-man roster. The team can only keep so many receivers.

So, it could come down to health between Ford and Cribbs.

In other AFC West notes:

Former Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist signed with Baltimore. He tried out for the Chiefs last week.

Wednesday was the last day for Amy Trask in Oakland. She resigned as Raiders CEO four days ago. The team took out a full-page ad in a local paper to thank Trask for her quarter century of service.
The Oakland Raiders are kicking the tires on a now-healthy Josh Cribbs, according to several reports.

The Cleveland free agent nearly signed a deal with Arizona early in free agency. But he wasn’t fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

I was told that Cribbs had a “great visit” with Oakland, and the Raiders are one of four teams interested in Cribbs. The Raiders’ interest in Cribbs is not a surprise. The Raiders looked at Domenik Hixon earlier in free agency. Like Hixon, Cribbs is a return man and a receiver. Cribbs, who will turn 30 next month, has been a dynamic return man in his career, but he is aging. His highest season reception total came in 2011 when he had 41 catches.

If he signs with Oakland, Cribbs would be insurance for receiver/returner Jacoby Ford, who has been hampered by foot injuries.

In other AFC West notes:

USA Today is reporting the Kansas City Chiefs are considering Jeff Morrow of Carolina and Marvin Allen of the Falcons for their director of college scouting opening. The new regime is adding pieces to the scouting department.

Denver free-agent receiver Matthew Willis recently worked out for New England.

UPDATE: ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Cribbs is also going to visit the New York Jets.
The Denver Broncos are adding an interesting name in the front office.

The NFL Network is reporting the Broncos are adding former Philadelphia and Cleveland executive Tom Heckert to the front office, the team did not renew the contract of personnel man Keith Kidd. Heckert will likely fill Kidd's role.

Heckert will not have a position of major power in Denver with John Elway leading the football operations and Matt Russell also playing a key role.

But Heckert does give the Broncos value because of his experience as a decision maker. He was a longtime successful personnel man in Philadelphia and he spent the past three years as the general manager in Cleveland.
As the NFL draft approaches, there has been growing speculation that both the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers could be involved in trades early in the process.

The Raiders have been receiving calls for the No. 3 pick and the pick is expected to be a pivot point in the draft. Oakland may get plenty of calls while on the clock. It is interested in trading down to help stock a depleted roster. It has been heavily speculated that Cleveland could move up from No. 6 to No. 3.

That would be a gift to Oakland.

The Raiders would then slide to No. 6 and get solid compensation and then still be able to grab a top defensive talent such as Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd or Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Meanwhile, there has been growing speculation that the Chargers could move way up from No. 11 to grab a top left tackle. That is the team’s most glaring need and there is no way a top left tackle will be available at No. 11.

Still, I think it would be difficult for the Chargers to pull the trigger on one big move up. This is a team that is rebuilding. It needs help at a lot of positions. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said he thinks the Chargers could even trade their 2014 first-round pick to get in a position to get Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel. A potential trade partner could even be Oakland.

Giving a division rival a first-round pick would be difficult to swallow. I understand the Chargers’ need for a blindside protector for Philip Rivers, but at what price?

These potential big trades add to the drama of the first round in the AFC West.
Mel Kiper Jr. is getting busy playing general manager and making trades (two involving AFC West teams) in a new three-round mock draft in an Insider piece Insider. Let’s take a look:


Rd. 1 (28) CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida St.

Rd. 2 (58) DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M

Rd. 3 (90) OL Barrett Jones, Alabama

My thoughts: The Broncos would be getting terrific value at all three spots. This is both good short-term and long-term value. Moore would be a steal at No. 58.

Kansas City

Rd. 1 (5) OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (via Detroit)

Rd. 3 (63) S J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern

Rd. 3 (96) QB Mike Glennon, North Carolina St.

My thoughts: This would be a banner first three rounds for the Chiefs. Kiper has them sending the No.1 overall pick to Detroit for the No. 5 pick and the Lions’ top pick next year. The Chiefs would get Fisher, a player who they could take at No. 1, and get more ammunition for next year’s draft. Plus, taking a flier on Glennon with a compensatory pick makes sense.


Rd. 1 (3) DE Sharrif Floyd, Florida

Rd. 3 (66) DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio St.

My thoughts: The Raiders would like to acquire more picks. But if this is the bounty, I really like where the defensive line is heading. I love Floyd, and Hankins would be a nice get at No. 66.

San Diego

Rd. 1 (6) OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (via Cleveland)

Rd. 2 (45) LB Arthur Brown, Kansas St.

Rd. 3 (76) (Traded to Cleveland)

My thoughts: This would be a productive draft for the Chargers. It is looking more and more likely that Johnson will not get past Arizona at No. 7. The Chargers badly need a left tackle. I’d hate to see the Chargers give up two picks, (Kiper has them sending a third-round pick and an unidentified pick) but Johnson would fill a huge need. Brown is a hot name and he’d be a solid get at No. 45.
Oakland’s expected visit with cornerback Mike Jenkins took place Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the team agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Denver cornerback Tracy Porter.

The Raiders need another starting cornerback. Jenkins has some interest from Buffalo and Jacksonville, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up in Oakland.

Meanwhile, now that the Carson Palmer issue has been resolved with his trade to Arizona, I wonder what will become of the Rolando McClain situation. The linebacker is not expected back. His agent has reportedly asked to seek a trade, but there has not been any reported interest. If he is not traded, he will in all likelihood be cut. There is no timeline, and Oakland is clearly not in a rush to do anything.

New Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn talked about his journey to Oakland in his introductory press conference.

Oakland could potentially look at safety Usama Young, who was cut by Cleveland. Raiders coach Dennis Allen was his position coach in New Orleans, and Oakland needs help at safety.

In other AFC West notes:

The family of the late Junior Seau offered ESPN The Magazine a special look at a photo album of his life. The legendary San Diego linebacker committed suicide last May at the age of 43.

The Chiefs cut lineman Rich Ranglin.

Raiders' QB wait marches on

March, 31, 2013
As the Raiders wait for the Matt Flynn-Carson Palmer saga to unfold, a backup plan is now off the table.

Former Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb agreed to terms with Buffalo. He was reportedly being considered by Oakland if the Flynn trade doesn’t go through and Palmer doesn’t take a pay cut. The options are very few now if that scenario doesn't unfold.

Likely options would be bypassing massive defensive needs and taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the No. 3 pick. The Raiders could perhaps pursue Cleveland’s Colt McCoy, although he's not considered a starter. Oakland could also commit to third-year player Terrelle Pryor as the starter, but it doesn’t seem like the team is quite ready to go that route.

Right now, the main possibilities are Flynn and Palmer. The Flynn trade could go through in the next couple of days if he and the Raiders come to a contractual accord.

The Arizona Republic is reporting the Cardinals are not willing to give up much in a trade for Palmer. He is expected to be cut if he doesn’t take a pay cut.

Meanwhile, Cleveland reportedly has small interest in Giants receiver/returner Domenik Hixon. The former Denver draft choice visited the Raiders a few days ago.
Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer is highly unlikely to accept a big pay cut. Palmer is set to make more than $13 million with a salary cap number at more than $15 million.

If Palmer doesn’t budge, the Raiders would have to either cut him, trade him or keep him. Cutting Palmer would be the most likely of those scenarios. Tuesday night, CBS Sports is reporting Oakland is one of three teams to have interest in acquiring Matt Flynn from Seattle. He was in Green Bay with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Flynn would give veteran competition to Terrelle Pryor should Palmer be moved. The report states that Jacksonville may be the favorite to get Flynn, but the Raiders and the Buffalo Bills are also interested.

The report states that Flynn would likely command a fourth- or fifth-round pick. The Raiders don’t have picks in the second and fifth rounds. They have a lot of needs and I know McKenzie wants to keep every pick he can get and he is open to trading the No. 3 pick to gain more choices.

But a veteran will be needed if Palmer is cut. Flynn is considered as a backup type. He did sign a nice deal with the Seahawks last year to compete for the starting job. But third-round pick Russell Wilson took the job and never looked back.

If Flynn does come to Oakland, Pryor will try to do the same thing. One veteran is off the table for Oakland. Former Oakland starter Jason Campbell -- the Raiders traded for Palmer in 2011 when Campbell was hurt -- signed with Cleveland on Tuesday night.

If the Raiders do trade for Flynn I’d think it would end talk that they could draft West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the No. 3 pick. I’d doubt the Raiders would put so many resources into quarterbacks with so many other needs.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports also reports Oakland is expected to cut defensive tackle Tommy Kelly on Wednesday. That move has long been expected.

In another AFC West:

The Chiefs have continued to their look at potential choices with the No. 1 pick by working out Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher. The team is working out several top prospects.

Chargers add to O-line

March, 12, 2013
The San Diego Chargers signed tackle King Dunlap.

He is massive at 6-foot-9, 330 pounds. He started 12 games last season for the Eagles. He can play both left and right tackle. The Chargers have massive needs on the offensive line.

I think Dunlap will be given a chance to earn a spot at either right tackle or as a key backup, perhaps with the latter being the most likely scenario. This very likely doesn’t mean the Chargers are done looking for a starting left tackle. That is currently the spot where the team is expected to use the No. 11 pick.

In other AFC West news:

It has been reported the Raiders are interested in Jets’ guard Matt Slauson. He played under new Oakland offensive line coach Tony Sparano in 2012.

The NFL Network reports Denver pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil is now open to taking a pay cut with Denver. That probably means he doesn’t think his market would be great in free agency.

The Broncos are visiting with defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. He is sought after. He played for Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio with the Jaguars. CBS Sports is reporting Denver is interested in Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour. He could help a contender on a limited basis.

The Raiders are reportedly interested in Cleveland linebacker Kaluka Maiava. The USC product started 13 games on the weakside for the Browns.
The Denver Post reports the Broncos likely won’t cut pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil until a replacement is secured. And many are considering former Indianapolis Colts pass-rusher Dwight Freeney as the top candidate to replace Dumervil.

The newspaper also reports the Broncos are interested in Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

In other AFC West notes:

Raiders tight end Brandon Myers continues to be connected to reports he'll end up in Cleveland. It's obvious Oakland could have a tough time keeping him.

CBS Sports is reporting defensive end Chris Canty is visiting the Ravens. He visited the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago.
The Cleveland Browns reportedly are one of the teams interested in San Diego Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason. There are a few teams interested, and Cason will probably leave the Chargers.

I expect the Chargers to have deep talks with Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers. He was with the Indianapolis Colts with new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. Don’t be surprised if the Chargers can eventually work something out with him.

Meanwhile, the Chargers are reportedly re-signing kicker Nick Novak to a four-year deal. He has been reliable for San Diego in the past two years.

For those connecting the dots of Anquan Boldin to San Diego: Remember, Boldin and former Cardinals coach and new San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt weren’t always on good terms in Arizona.

In other AFC West notes:

I could see a scenario where the Kansas City Chiefs decide to revisit pursuing Miami cornerback Sean Smith despite signing Dunta Robinson.