Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "You probably heard about the Browns preparing to open the season with 15 rookies..."
"That's a stunning number. But I also count 11 players who are in only their second pro season."
"They have fresh legs," said Browns HC Pat Shurmur. The coach is certainly right about that. The kids may indeed be fast. Now the coaches just have to hope all the young guys know where they are supposed to be going.
"I've never seen a Cleveland team in any sport with nearly half of the roster composed of rookies and second-year men have a winning record. Then again, how many Cleveland teams have had winning records lately? The Browns have had only four since 1989. Which is why General Manager Tom Heckert and Shurmur are doing this -- even if it virtually guarantees another losing season for a team that is 18-46 in the past four years."
Pluto doesn't include team President Mike Holmgren in this discussion, because it's reasonably certain he will be gone once Jimmy Haslam officially becomes the new owner next month. Holmgren did set the course for building through the draft, but those whose football futures really are at stake are Heckert and Shurmur.
Give them credit for not signing some marginal veterans or over-priced free agents to try to win a few more games, says Pluto. But do light a few holy candles for them so that Haslam can see beyond the final record before deciding who should run his football team in 2013.
Heckert and Shurmur are convinced the only way the Browns will ever be successful is to draft and develop their core players. Every front office/coach combination says that, but few are so committed as these guys. After the 2009 season (Eric Mangini's first year), the Browns had one of the oldest teams in the league. Now, it's hard to imagine anyone being younger.
On offense, the Browns will start rookies at quarterback (Brandon Weeden), running back (Trent Richardson) and right tackle (Mitchell Schwartz). But they also have second-year men at wide receiver (Greg Little), left guard (Jason Pinkston) and fullback (Owen Marecic). If they take out the fullback and go with more receivers, rookie Josh Gordon will be on the field. Or second-year tight end Jordan Cameron will play.
The Browns' defense will probably have a rookie starting at tackle (John Hughes) and second-year men at safety (Eric Hagg) and defensive end (Jabaal Sheard). A rookie or first-year player (L.J. Fort, Craig Robertson or Tank Carder) will start at Scott Fujita's linebacker spot.
That's 10 starters with fewer than two years of experience. Only two starters -- center Alex Mack and guard Joe Thomas -- have ever made a Pro Bowl.
"The mental part is the hardest for rookies," said veteran linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. "The (16-game) season is longer than college. The mental work was so much harder for me, compared to college. I took notes on everything my first year, and we (veterans) have to set the right examples."
Jackson talked about "little tricks" veterans pull out for the regular season, "how they hold you so the official can't see it or give you a move you have never seen before."
The only players on the Browns who were here before 2009 are Phil Dawson (1999), Joshua Cribbs (2005), Jackson (2006), Thomas (2007) and Ahtyba Rubin (2008).
By assembling what Heckert admitted is an "unorthodox (roster) -- maybe too many guys at one position," the Browns are looking for players who can eventually start or play significant roles in the near future. The hard part (after winning games) will be to convince a beaten-down fan base that this actually might work. Browns fans can write a graduate thesis in sports management about the different approaches to team building -- and how they fail.
That's because they've heard it all, and seen none of it work. That has to change as fans will now see the results of three Heckert drafts. This should be the year that T.J. Ward, Joe Haden and Shawn Lauvao take major steps forward. They are the core of Heckert's 2010 class, along with Montario Hardesty and Colt McCoy. Haden has the talent to be a Pro Bowler, and Ward needs to stay healthy to be the hard-hitting safety that they need.
A key is Lauvao, who has been handed the right guard spot. Can he prove to be a starter? The Browns have no other real alternatives.
Contrary to what some media members insisted, Colt McCoy had been in their plans for months as a backup -- assuming he played well and accepted his role. That has happened. A viable No. 2 quarterback in the third round is not a bad selection.
Hardesty has dealt with so many knee problems, he doesn't have the speed that convinced Heckert to trade up into the second round and grab the running back.
Pluto says: "I'm not going to sort through all of Heckert's picks, but all the excitement about the 2012 class of Weeden, Richardson, Gordon and the rest disguised the fact that most players either become starters by their third season . . . or are backups . . . or are cut."
So it's important to watch the 2010 class.
Shurmur and Heckert are optimistic. They believe Weeden, Richardson, Schwartz and Gordon are upgrades over guys who played those spots last season. They are sure that some of the younger players from the 2010 and 2011 drafts will improve.
And that may very well be true. But the question is how fast will it happen?...
For the most part, history has been a litany of failure for the Browns since they won their last title in the 1964 NFL championship game, whipping the Baltimore Colts 27-0 two years before the advent of the Super Bowl.
"The Drive" and "The Fumble" are painfully etched into fans' memories, and, more recently, this is a franchise that last season saw one of the league's toughest running backs, Peyton Hillis, somehow turn into an injury-prone malcontent who wouldn't sign a contract and skipped games on the advice of his agent. Hillis signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason and seemingly has regained his old, well-regarded form.
Still, this is a time for optimism for all 32 NFL teams, even those that have lost as regularly as the Browns. So it is not surprising they are looking on the bright side of life.
Left offensive tackle Joe Thomas is beginning his sixth season with the team after being their first-round draft pick in 2007. He is the face of the franchise after being selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his five seasons. He smiles when the word "curse" is mentioned.
"I've heard the stories, and I know the history," Thomas said. "But we're no different than any other team when it comes to injuries. Everyone deals with them. We just happened to have a high-profile draft choice get hurt."
"I'm signed on for seven more years here, and I wouldn't have committed that long if I didn't feel we could win," Thomas said. "I've had my share of personal achievements, and those are nice, but the biggest thing is to win. The fun part of the game is winning, and that's what I want more than anything."
The Browns have the makings of a good defense after finishing 10th in the NFL in yards allowed last season with an average of 332.4. They think an offense that ranked 29th with an average of 288.8 yards a game will be improved with not only Richardson and Weeden but also second-year wide receiver Greg Little, who also possesses star potential.
But the Browns' talent is still mostly unproven, which is why they are universally picked to finish last in the AFC North.
"We're on the right track," said Doug Dieken, a franchise icon who was an offensive tackle in the 1970s and '80s. "The fans are excited because they see a roster that's getting younger and more athletic, but they're also going to have to be patient. Of course, saying the word 'patience' to a Browns fan is like saying 'Steelers.' Our fans have been patient forever."
Of course, nothing would excite Cleveland more than a Super Bowl championship or even just the franchise's first trip to the big game. That would seem to go a long way toward reversing any curse.
"I don't know about curses or anything like that, because this is just my second season and all I can really talk about is what's happened since I've been here," Shurmur said. "What I do know is that we have very passionate fans who care a great deal about this franchise, and we're going to do everything in our power to make the Cleveland Browns a winning organization."
The irony is, while the Browns are almost forced to throw 15 rookies into the mix against the Eagles, Philadelphia has to sit one or more of their own first-year men. It looks like DE Vinny Curry will be a casualty of the Eagles' numbers game.
Vinny Curry, DE, 6-3, 266, 2nd round pick out of Marshall in 2012, will probably not be activated for the Eagles' opener in Cleveland.
Keeping six defensive ends was not a hard choice for the Eagles when trimming their roster to 53 players last weekend. Choosing which ones will dress on Sundays will be more complicated...Coach Reid said before practice Wednesday that all six may dress for Sunday's season opener at Cleveland, but that five is the more likely number.
"It's going to be whoever practices hardest during the week," Brandon Graham said. "It's going to be crazy." But Graham, a third-year player the Eagles traded up to draft in the first round in 2010, is up for the challenge after spending last season in limbo due to not being physically sound following knee microfracture surgery that accompanied an ACL repair.
"Man, it's exciting," Graham said. "I just can't wait. We'll just see this weekend how everything plays out, but I know I'm going to go as hard as I can and I'm going to have fun, try to get that win. I don't know who's going to dress. Maybe Vinny [Curry] might dress, maybe not. Maybe I won't dress. You never know."
Graham, Curry, Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt are backups to starters Trent Cole and Jason Babin, who missed almost the entire preseason with a calf strain but is expected to be ready for the opener. He practiced on Wednesday. Curry, who's had an uneven training camp as a rookie, is ready for anything.
Curry, who's had an uneven training camp as a rookie, is ready for anything. "I pretty much already know my role already, just learning from these guys and always trying to be competitive," he said. "That means when my number is called, I'm capable of going in there and doing it to the best of my ability.... Just being in that rotation pushes you to go out there and work every day. For the most part I know what it is, so I'm going to continue to go out there and work every day, see what happens."
Though Curry claims not to know if he will be active against the Browns, he sounds as if he might be the odd man out. If that's the case, it's only because Tapp, Hunt and Graham were so outstanding in the preseason with their explosion off the line and demonstrated ability to get to the quarterback.
"I haven't made any of those decisions," Reid said. "You can ask the question and I understand the question but I haven't narrowed that down. I'm letting Babin get in and do his thing and make sure he is healthy and we'll go from there."
Reading between the line, it sounds like the only way Curry gets on the field this Sunday is if Babin can't go. Doesn't matter to Curry. At least not yet.
"All of us have goals and we continue to push each other," Curry said. "We're a bonding team. We do a lot of things together on and off the field. So there's friendly competition but there's the task at hand. ... I'm just going to continue to work, active or inactive, just continue to work and help my team out the best I can. It's not just about me. There's a bigger picture at the end of the day. We're all chasing the Lombardi Trophy."
One thing everyone can be certain of is that the Eagles front four will be focused on Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden the entire time. Weeden is a rookie who was the surprise winner of the starting job during training camp. The Eagles will come after him early and often and with looks that they didn't show when they faced the Browns in Week 3 of the preseason last month.
"We know he is a very talented player," Reid said. "I had an opportunity to study him in college, so I know the things he is capable of and you got a taste of that when we played them. Actually it was the first play of the game [a 28-yard completion]."
Weeden ended up being sacked three times that night in August and completed just nine of 20 attempts for 117 yards..
On track for Week 1---
Browns' rookie running back Trent Richardson and cornerback Joe Haden continued to practice Thursday and are expected to play Sunday. Richardson, the third overall pick in this year's draft, practiced in pads for the first time since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 9.
"In my mind, there hasn't been any setback in his recovery," coach Pat Shurmur said.
Offensive coordinator Brad Childress is eager to see Richardson back in full force.
"I don't think you get an appreciation for him until you really see him in full pads," Childress said. "You watch the (organized team activities) and that type of thing, but I don't think you can get the full measure of him until you see him shrug a couple people off and be physical and that type of thing."
All signs point to Haden being permitted to play Sunday while he appeals a reported suspension on a drug test. The Browns are hoping Haden can help to limit Eagles standout wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
"He's very smooth and extremely fast," defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said of Jackson. "He has another gear when the ball gets up in the air. It's hard to overthrow him because he's really fast. It adds a whole other dimension to an already very talented football team. He's a very dynamic player."
Browns' backup offensive linemen Oniel Cousins (right ankle) and John Greco (calf) remained sidelined during practice. Rookie tackle Ryan Miller, a fifth-round pick, is the only healthy backup offensive lineman.
"You usually have your front five and then a couple more as backups," Shurmur said. "Again, there's a couple days left before we've got to set the roster, and some guys are game-day decisions." If neither Cousins nor Greco can play, the Browns would probably make a roster move.
"We're a little short on numbers right now, which is tough," tackle Joe Thomas said. "Obviously, you hope some of those guys can come back and be healthy. You can't really worry about it because it's not our job. But it definitely would help to have a little more depth right now because we are thin."
Browns' injury report--- Rookie strongside linebacker James-Michael Johnson (oblique) did not practice...Tight end Jordan Cameron (groin), quarterback Thaddeus Lewis (right thumb), running back Chris Ogbonnaya (ankle), Watson (thigh) and Richardson were limited.
Free safety Eric Hagg (illness), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (knee and ankle), strong safety Ray Ventrone (hamstring) and free safety Usama Young (thigh) fully participated.
Meanwhile in Philly, rookie DT Fletcher Cox was reported to be suffering from some swelling of the knee...we'll keep an eye on that. As the Sage JB-Lion has said, swelling of the knee can be an indicator of something serious...Hopefully it turns out to be benign and does not impact Cox' regular season debut in the Eagles' DT rotation.
Homophobia... Thats the word... Whats a phobia insinuate? That your scared of something? No...I ain't scared, I just think they are weird fuckers is all...
Good luck with that bunghole sex thing and finding love and stuff....like everyone else
Used to convey the suddenness with which someone or something disappears.
An effeminate or homosexual man.
Right now.. after 5 or 6 drinks... I am following up on an Idea I had yesterday at Golf...
There has been Soo many crazy lessons being dished out to this past month or so... I have decided to write them down... Well...OTHER than in here... All day I have been a lazy bastard... But am kicking em off now... In a long winded E-mail..
Welp, it doesn't seem like lupes is gonna flip da blugger.... Sickly sickerson is asleep... Will try and catch up on some zzzzz myself... Night *kisses*
@atvcar CHUT UP!! We know your sneaky little ways, stop trying to pump fake our asses!
@tboned208 My wife ruined... Talked threw the whole freakin movie asking me questions... Almost went jihad on her ass.... Wait, can I make a jihad joke???
@Jerky @tboned208 I need a rule book... When Sa cough cough ky is no longer off limits, someone please let me know... TYIA
@beanstalk @Jerky @tboned208 I like him... He's a tad too sensitive for these parts... Better off in a censored environment like Nat
@tboned208 Was told Guy Peirce at the start would Never have died from that...
@tboned208 Instant classic.
Well..............I prolly the only east coaster left...........but had enuf.
Off to the Rack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Keep the light on till the next blurb.
@dutchrubb Peace... It's your turn tomorrow... whatcha gonna do when ATV runs all over YOU..... MWAHAHAHAHA
@dutchrubb Later Dutchy. We'll try to clean up the scrip joint by the morning time.
@dutchrubb Friday nights can get kinda crazy in here sometimes..
@dutchrubb Sheeeeeet I ain't leaving the house...
Bizzaro..... After Net surfing yesterday... I was getting Ad's in the columns about shit I had looked at here... The Aussie sites?!?
This thread has been crack-a-lacking all day long! A lot of damn comments. I don't care what kind of quality they are either, that's still a lot in less than one day. Lupes, where the F**K are more sponsors?