Tag Archives: AFC North


My quick recap of the Bengals dismantling of the Browns and baptism of Johnny Manziel into the NFL.

Listen Here –

Johnny Manziel Sad 1


Regardless of how they got here, the Browns are at .500 through 4 games at (2-2). Now what do they do moving forward will give us a better idea if they’re a good team, an improving team, a lucky team or still a bad team.  We’ll start to get an answer to that debate starting this Sunday when they host their arch rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have beaten the Browns in 28 of the last 32 games.

Kudos to Chris Tabor’s special teams as they played a big part in the Browns historical comeback win yesterday at Tennessee. Tank Carter’s blocked punt was a momentum changer, and the fact they were perfect on all snaps for punts, field goals and extra points and they made all their kicks is huge. Plus their punt and kick coverage teams were outstanding.

Brian Hoyer TD Signal vs Ravens


Brian Hoyer is now (5-2) in 7 career starts for the Cleveland Browns. Of those 5 wins, he has led 3 game winning drives in the 4th quarter.

More Hoyer – he’s thrown for 1,008 yards with 6 touchdown passes and only 1 interception so far this season. That’s good for a 97.7 quarterback rating.


The Browns have outscored their opponents so far this season 67-30 in the second half of games.

While it is a victory Monday and as Mike Pettine pointed out in week #1 this is a Pass/Fail business, the Browns head coach can’t be happy with the way his team has started their road games (outscored 54-13 in 1st half), their inability to stop the run, the poor play of Joe Haden, Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine and the horrendous tackling we’ve seen through 4 games.Joe Haden beat by Steve Smith vs Ravens   9-21-14

The Browns defense, which was supposed to be its strength entering this season, is ranked 30th in run defense in the NFL at (152. Yards per game) and 28th in pass defense at ( 269.3 yards per game).

Having said all that, the Browns are only 1 game out of first in the AFC North.

Taylor Gabriel has been the biggest surprise for me amongst the wide receivers. The undrafted rookie from Abilene Christian has been a big play guy for the offense, averaging 19.4 yards per catch on 10 grabs.

If you’re looking for the strength of this Browns football team, look no further than the offensive line. Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Joel Bitonio and Mitchell Schwartz are the main reason Brian Hoyer has been able to do what he’s done, as well as the running game. The team is averaging over 143 yards per game on the ground with a 4.5 average on every carry regardless of who the running back is.

(4-15), that’s the combined record of the Browns next 4 opponents with 3 of those 4 games at home. No less than 3 wins in the next 4 games is acceptable if this squad wants to be considered a good team and a playoff contender.



Mike Pettine Head Set Photo

On the chance of rain on Sunday:

“It’s looking like it. The last report I got (indicates) it will rain early. (It will) hopefully blow on through by kickoff, but you never know. We do know there should be a decent amount of wind, but we’ll see. Like we said before, our theory of all-weather could potentially get tested.”


On what is more difficult – throwing a wet ball or catching a wet ball:

“I just saw (QB Brian) Hoyer almost get his nose broken. I think both are tough. I think it’s something that you have to work on. It’s important for the quarterback; they have to adjust their grip a little bit. It’s something that I’m sure over time here we’re going to have to deal with.”


On if the bye week coming up factors into whether or not LB Barkevious Mingo and TE Jordan Cameron play in this game:

“No, if they’re healthy, they’ll play. There’s no, ‘Listen, they’re a little more at risk, but they get an extra week to recover from it.’ We don’t think that way. If they’re ready to go, they’ll go.”


On if he’s optimistic that they’ll play:

“Still, I’ll have to see when they come off the field and they get with (head athletic trainer) Joe (Sheehan). He’ll give me the report this afternoon. They got some work done today.”


On if he thinks that sitting on the sideline is hard for QB Johnny Manziel or if he thinks that he OK with it and knows his time is going to come:

“I think it’s hard to speak for him. Knowing the type of kid he is, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a little bit of both. Part of him wants to be out there, and then the other part says, ‘OK, this is a good learning experience for me.’ He went through it at Texas A&M when he red shirted and was behind (Dolphins QB Ryan) Tannehill.”


On if he looked at the schedule when it came out and thought that the first part would be tough because they’re up against three Super Bowl winning quarterbacks:

“Maybe the defensive coaches looked at it that way. As a head coach, you just kind of…the schedule falls the way it falls. We were more…when the schedule came out it was just all about Pittsburgh at that point. You kind of peak ahead a little bit to see what kind of offseason projects you want to do, but we don’t get too wrapped up in which quarterbacks we’re facing and when.”


On if Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s biggest asset is his big arm:

“That’s part of it, but I think he’s really very intelligent. I think he’s really good with understanding the offense. If he has to check a player or change the protection…just the year I was around him when he was a rookie he was well ahead of the game from a football aptitude standpoint. He’s intelligent. He can make all the throws. Then he’s also a guy who I think is a better athlete – he’s a long strider. He’s a better athlete than people think.”


On which year he left Baltimore:

“I was there for (Ravens Head Coach) John Harbaugh’s first season, so I was there in ’08 and in New York in ’09.”


On if the division has changed since he left Baltimore as far as the competitive balance:

“It was Baltimore and Pittsburgh when I was there. Then, it was Cincinnati. I don’t remember exactly how it ended up that season. I don’t think we won the division, but I think we ended up going to the AFC Championship game. You get beyond last year they’re all a blur to me anyway.”


On if there is a window now in the AFC North:

“To me, it looks like it’s a very competitive division. I think they interviewed Harbaugh the other bad and he said the same thing. They’re seeing it firsthand because they’re starting the season out, which is rare playing all the division opponents right out of the gate.”


On how it feels to face his old team:

“I kind of got over that when I was in New York and we played against them. It was different. It was tough for me then because all three of my kids were still school age. They were in school at very sensitive ages in Maryland, and we went down there and got beat. They took a little razzing at school, had some hurt feelings. Now at this point, it’s been five years since I’ve been there. Baltimore will always be special to me because that’s where I got my start, but I think when it gets to this point – this far beyond it – there’s not that much to it.”


On if the Ravens pass rush with Ravens OLBs Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil is the best they’ve faced this season:

“Yeah, I would say that’s accurate. They go four deep there because you can add McPhee. That’s a good group and the fact that they have depth there is they can roll those guys and be fresh.”


On if the Ravens only having two sacks on the season and if their pass rush is getting pressure without recording sacks:

“I don’t get much into sack totals because I get asked this too. Sometimes, when you have the threat of the rush the ball ends up coming out quicker. To me, the key state is – and you don’t chart it on the outside – is how much was the quarterback truly affected. Was he off his spot? Did he have to step up? The outside backers, you would have players that don’t have big production, but they cause production, whether they’re collapsing one side and then forcing the quarterback up and out or up into maybe another player. We don’t get too wrapped up into the sack numbers.”


On if he has detailed way to keep track of that:

“We do. We chart it.”


On if he gave the rookies and young players a history lesson on the Browns moving to Baltimore in 1995:

“I did. It was the whole team, just to give them a bit of a background on if our fans seem a little bit more venomous than usual. This is why (laughs). I would have been surprised if most of the guys in the room did know the history because I think some of these guys were born in the 90’s. They have no idea.”


On when he gave the history lesson to the team:

“Wednesday when we introduce the opponent and just talk about their roster and kind of the state of their team and offense, defense, special teams. The introductory part of that was just the history between the teams.”


On if there were players that we’re surprised to learn that the Ravens hadn’t always been in Baltimore:

“Yeah. I get a lot of quizzical looks during team meetings anyway, but it was more so than usual (laughs).”


On if he felt that venom when he came here as part of the Ravens coaching staff:

“Yes, very much so.”


On if he felt it in the atmosphere:

“You just felt it, and knowing the history maybe you put a little bit more on in your mind anyway. You definitely felt it, and I working with…I was in the video department. I worked with (Ravens senior director of football video operations) Jon Dubé and he was the video director here. (Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations) Kevin Byrne was here, obviously, (Ravens General Manager) Ozzie (Newsome) and just some of the people that were here and told the stories. A lot of it’s been chronicled already in the Cleveland ’95 thing, but haven’t heard what happened towards the end. You understood it.”


On if it was emotional when he was with the Ravens when he got there four years after the Browns came back to Cleveland in 1999:

“Yeah, I got there in ’02, so yeah you could definitely feel it.”


1) Baltimore is not a good road trip. The Rat Birds were just (2-6) on the road last season and this is their first game away from home this season.

2) Jon Harbaugh’s squad was (0-3) on the road last season against the AFC North. In fact the Ravens have dropped 4 straight road games within the division dating back to 2012.

3) The mental road block of beating the Ravens came to an end last season when the Browns beat Baltimore 24-18 in C’Town. It snapped an 11-game losing streak to the “Old Browns”.

4) Hopefully Joe Flacco is still having nightmares from his performance against the Bills last season, a 23-20 loss at Buffalo. Current Browns head coach Mike Pettine was the defensive coordinator of that Bills defense. Yes Flacco threw for 347 yards and 2 touchdowns in that game, but he was also intercepted 5 times and completed just 50 percent of his passes in that loss.

Mike Pettine Head Set Photo

5) Remember this, the Browns current sideline boss Mike Pettine coached with the Ravens from 2002-2008 on the defensive side of the ball. While the players like Hall of Famer’s Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone, their philosophy is the same and who knows better how to attack that Ravens defense than Pettine.

Honorable mention:

Joe Flacco was under the weather earlier this week.

All the Ray Rice/Roger Goodell/Ravens Front Office distractions.


DE- Carlos Dunlap                         Bengals

NT- Haloti Ngata                           Ravens

DE- Wallace Gilberry                     Bengals

OLB- Vontaze Burfict                    Bengals

ILB- Lawrence Timmons               Steelers

ILB- Karlos Dansby                        Browns

OLB- Terrell Suggs                        Ravens

CB- Joe Haden                               Browns

CB- Lardarius Webb                      Ravens

SS- Troy Polamalua                      Steelers

FS- Donte Whitner                        Browns


P– Sam Koch                                 Ravens


Team Totals – Ravens 4, Browns 3, Bengals 3, Steelers 2



QB- Ben Roethlisberger                Steelers

RB- Giovani Bernard                     Bengals

WR- A.J. Green                               Bengals

WR- Antonio Brown                      Steelers

WR- Torey Smith                           Ravens

TE- Jordan Cameron                     Browns

LT- Joe Thomas                             Browns

LG- Kelechi Osemele                    Ravens

C-  Alex Mack                                Browns

RG- Marshall Yanda                     Ravens

RT- Andre Smith                           Bengals


PK – Justin Tucker                        Ravens

PR- Antonio Brown                      Steelers

KR- Jacoby Jones                           Ravens


Team Totals – Ravens 5, Browns 3, Steelers 3, Bengals 3


Here’s my team-by-team grade and breakdown of the picks made by all the AFC North GM’s.

AFC North Helmets Photo



AFC North Helmets Photo


CLEVELAND BROWNS   –   GM – Ray Farmer   –   Overall Grade   ( B-)

Manziel & Gilbert Questions Photo 2

1st – 8th –  Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

1st – 22nd – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

2nd – 35th –  Joel Bitonio, OG, Nevada

3rd – 71st –  Christian Kirksey, OLB, Iowa

3rd – 94th – Terrance West, RB, Towson

4th – 127th – Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

*(Picked up Buffalo’s 1st Round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft)


PITTSBURGH STEELERS   –   GM  –  Kevin Colbert   –   Overall Grade   (B+)

Ryan Shazier OSU Photo

1st – 15th –  Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

2nd – 46th –  Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame

3rd – 97th –  Dri Archer, WR, Kent State

4th – 118th – Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

5th – 157th –  Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona

5th – 173rd –  Wesley Johnson, C, Vanderbilt

6th – 192nd – Jordan Zumwalt, OLB, UCLA

6th – 215th – Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee

7th – 230th –  Rob Blanchflower, TE, Massachusetts


BALTIMORE RAVENS   –   GM  –  Ozzie Newsome   –   Overall Grade   (B+)

1ST – 17TH – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

2nd – 48th –  Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

3rd – 79th – Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State

3rd – 99th –  Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State

4th – 134th –  Brent Urban, DE, Virginia

4th – 138th –  Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina

5th – 175th –  John Urschel, OG, Penn State

6th – 194th – Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State

7th – 218th –  Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest


CINCINNATI BENGALS   –   GM   –   Mike Brown   –   Overall Grade   (B)

1st – 24th – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

2nd – 55th –  Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU

3rd – 88th –  Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia

4th – 111th –  Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina

5th – 164th – AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama

6th – 212th –  Marquis Flowers, OLB, Arizona

7th – 239th –  James Wright, WR, LSU

7th – 252nd –  Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern




First Round

Pick #8     –   Browns   –          Justin Gilbert                –       Cornerback   –      Oklahoma St.

Pick #15  –    Steelers  –          Ryan Shazier                 –       Linebacker    –      Ohio St.

Pick #17  –    Ravens    –          C.J. Mosley                   –         Linebacker     –     Alabama

Pick #22  –    Browns    –         Johnny Manziel           –       Quarterback  –      Texas A&M

Pick #24  –    Bengals   –         Darqueze Dennard      –       Cornerback    –     Michigan St.


Browns (A)

First year General Manager Ray Farmer was wheeling and dealing his way through the first round and filled two huge needs for this year’s team at cornerback and quarterback, while also picking up a first round pick and a fourth round pick from the Bills in 2015. Gilbert was the best cornerback in this draft, while Manziel may not be the best QB in this draft, but he’s one of the best, and is by far the most polarizing figure in the entire draft. Owner Jimmy Haslam knows “Johnny Cleveland” will sell tickets and merchandise even if he sits the entire year and will bring young fans back to the Browns, which is extremely important to a franchise that was losing some of its fan base. Can he play and can his body withstand the punishment it will take at the NFL level? Only time will tell. But for a night, and on paper, the moves and picks the Browns made look very good.

Johnny Manziel Money Sign On Stage at NFL Draft

Steelers (B)

Kevin Colbert needed help at cornerback and wide receiver and instead went for a linebacker in the first round for the second year in a row (Jarvis Jones last year).  Shazier racked up a lot of tackles at Ohio State, but did so for a below average defense in a weak conference. Cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Jason Varrett were staring the Steelers in the face and Colbert passed on both for the 4th best linebacker in the draft. Shazier does fit the mold of linebackers who can get after the quarterback in the Burgh, but needs work against the run. Pittsburgh fans better hope Shazier impacts the team more than previously drafted Buckeyes Cameron Heyward and Mike Adams.

Ravens (B+)

It’s tough to question the birds G.M. Ozzie Newsome, so I’m not going to. The Ravens get a solid linebacker against the run, who plays from sideline to sideline and did so in the toughest conference in America, the SEC. Mosley is not a get after the quarterback linebacker like Shazier in Pittsburgh, but he’s a more complete, fundamentally sound linebacker who can quarterback the defense.

Bengals (A-)

Talk about a solid player falling into your lap, that’s exactly what happened to the Bengals with Dennard. Cincy was looking for help for their aging secondary and they got it with a tough, physical defensive back from Michigan St. At pick 24 it really couldn’t have worked out any better for Cincinnati, as they got in most people’s eyes, the second best cornerback in the draft late in the first round.

So overall the AFC North did very well in day one of the NFL Draft. Now it’s back to work for all of the G.M.’s to try and continue their roll in the 2nd round. The Browns will be up first with the 3rd pick in the second round and look for Cleveland to target a wide receiver and an offensive lineman. WR’s Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson are there as well as a pair of OL guys in Xavier Su’aFilo and Cyrus Kouandjio. They could also look at Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde. So plenty of options to pick from and impact the team even more. It must be fun to be Ray Farmer right now!




4   CLEVELAND BROWNS       Sammy Watkins         WR    Clemson

15  PITTSBURGH STEELERS         Darqueze Dennard          CB     Michigan State

17  BALTIMORE RAVENS              Zack Martin                     OT     Notre Dame

24  CINCINNATI BENGALS           Kyle Fuller                       CB     Virginia Tech

26 CLEVELAND BROWNS       Derek Carr                QB     Fresno St.     


2ND ROUND  –  *Bonus Pick

35  CLEVELAND BROWNS      Cyrus Kouandjio       OT   Alabama