Saturday, February 6, 2016

Podcast with Carling Coffing Nolan!

We talk with Carling Coffing Nolan from Big Break,18 Holes and the LPGA!

Carling discusses her career in golf, television on 18 holes and her passion and fight with Type 1 Diabetes....

Cleveland Browns Season in Review-The Defense

The Cleveland Browns poured lots of money into their defense under the assumption that they would be a run first team that would win by pounding the ball on offense and shutting teams down on defense.
Now we know how that turned out,but I think a lot of this can be blamed on defensive coordinator Jim O'Neill and his decisions/philosophy.
Here is our look at the Browns defense....


The defensive line was still a sieve against the run,but they did manage a mildly improved pass rush with the Bryants (Desmond and Armonty) leading the group with 6 and 5.5 sacks respectively.
Armonty Bryant also was used as a standup outside backer,which he wasn't quite as effective at.
Randy Starks didn't bring as much as hoped for after being signed as a free agent and John Hughes didn't set the world on fire after signing an extension before the season.
Danny Shelton was somewhat of a disappointment after being drafted in the first round,but played very well over the final month and gives me hope that this maturation will continue next season.
The surprise was Jamie Meder as the former Ashland Eagle showed signs of at least being a strong rotational player,while third rounder Xavier Cooper was seldom used after being a preseason terror.

The linebackers still lacked impact players as Jim O'Neill continued the sad Browns tradition of not using players skills in the best usage.
Paul Kruger was less than strong (16 tackles,2.5 sacks),but Kruger was used less and less in the pass rush (his strength) and more in pass coverage,which isn't really his game.
Kruger has a 6.5 million dollar roster bonus coming and considering his drop in performance,the Browns could cut him loose unless Ray Horton thinks he can revitalize Kruger.
Nate Orchard was drafted to be a rush end at outside linebacker,but O'Neill rarely cut him loose and used him in pass coverage more often.
Orchard was surprisingly good in that role,but he wasn't drafted to do that-Orchard might have had a much larger impact had he been used as a pass rusher more often.
Former first rounder Barkevious Mingo was used similarly as Orchard and like Orchard was drafted as a pass rusher.
Mingo has tremendous speed,but lacks strength and when he would reach the quarterback,this lack of strength often hurt his ability to bring the QB down.
Mingo might go elsewhere,unless Ray Horton decides to try a reclamation project in a similar manner to Paul Kruger.
Karlos Dansby was his solid self,but at 34,the Browns at minimum need to be thinking about replacing him down the road.
Craig Robertson was nothing special at one inside spot,while Christian Kirksey played well,although I don't see him being a top level starter.

The secondary was pretty bad and I might be being a bit generous in that statement.
Joe Haden struggled early,never got better and wound up missing most of the season with concussion problems.
The Browns will need him to bounce back,because for all the money put into the secondary,there isn't anyone capable of replacing him.
Veteran Tramon Williams was brought to Cleveland to be the second corner at age 32.
With the injuries to Haden,Williams was forced into the top spot and was overwhelmed at the number one corner.
Williams is best suited to be a 3rd or 4th corner at this stage of his career and the Browns simply asked too much of an aging veteran.
The Browns used a variety of young players at the corner and none truly distinguished themselves.
Pierre Desir has the physical skills,but still is very raw,K'Waun Williams is more polished,but has a susceptibility to injury,Charles Gaines played late in the season with mixed results,Johnson Bademosi was badly beaten and was overmatched as anything more than a special teams player and Justin Gilbert continues to give the Browns next to nothing from a top ten draft pick.
At safety,Donte Whitner is still a solid tackler,but is getting worse and worse in pass coverage as he clearly has lost a step.
Tashaun Gipson had quarrels with the front office before last season over being tendered a contract,went out and was less of the ballhawking centerfielder than in 2014 and will likely leave via free agency.
Look for the Browns to address this position in either the draft or free agency.
Ibraheim Campbell played fairly well in his late season playing time and might have a chance to be the long term starter at strong safety.
Jordan Poyer is a special teams player that should be limited to just that role rather than any secondary time....

Andy Lee was one of the better punters in the league after being traded for from the 49ers with a 46 yard average.
Lee might have been the teams best asset in many ways.....

Grades

Defensive Line D+
The Bryants aside,the line didn't do a lot of pressuring the passer and the run defense remained a huge problem...

Linebackers C-
Nothing special,very few playmakers and players not used to their best abilities turned what was thought to be an asset into a below average unit...

Secondary D-
Lots of money spent for a low performing group.
A unit that spent more time chasing players than tackling them.

Punting A
Andy Lee was often this teams best weapon and was well worth the seventh round pick spent to acquire him....

Friday, February 5, 2016

On the signing front

The signing front returns as I continue to attempt to have it all completed by the beginning of the season.
I may miss the most important cards (top 100's) because I put those away as soon as I get them.
Please don't think I forgot about them as far as importance!!

Two final stops in Harrisburg fell through the cracks from the last signing front as we made trips to see Richmond and then Akron.
Richmond's additions were Joe Biagini (who always seemed to pitch when I saw them) and a 2015 Augusta Matthew Gage,while Akron's big pickup was Nick Maronde on a 2012 Heritage along with Bobby Ison on a Lake County from 2015...

Thanks to Ed Loyd for sending me a 1990 Score for the set of one of my all time closers in Lee Smith.
Lee Smith deserves to be in the hall as much as any other closer of the last 40 years and needs to be inducted!

Thanks to Mike Oravec for an autographed card of my favorite player as a child in Toby Harrah,
Mike found Toby's rookie signed (1972 Topps) at the Maugansville Card Show and picked up for me!

Thanks to Brett Shaw for his help in Altoona.
Brett got Nick Williams and J.P Crawford to sign the cards that I missed (Story in last signing front) and did the Altoona team set for me since they were finished in Harrisburg early,,,,

Thanks to Corey White for all of his Southern league help this season.
Corey did the Tennessee Smokies team set  with prospects Billy McKinney,Albert Almora and Carl (formerly C.J.) Edwards among them.
Corey went to see the Cubs in Cincinnati and got me Edwards there.
Corey also got me so many cards throughout the season and the cards for the top 100 were so great including the top prospect in the game in Byron Buxton.
I cannot thank him enough for his help!

Steve Nicholas in Indianapolis helped me with an Indianapolis team set with some other top 100's over the year and a very cool Bowman chrome of Cleveland prospect James Ramsey.
His help with the AAA International League has been a godsend in getting things signed that would have otherwise never been signed...

The pile is beginning to dwindle,so it's looking good to maybe be finished before the start of 2016!!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cleveland Browns Season in Review-The Offense

I always seem to get delayed in doing these season in reviews for the Browns and often get to the point of abandoning them because of the delay.
I do them anyway because I like having them in the archives,so here goes....

The quarterback play wasn't anything to get excited about,but considering that the distinct lack of weapons that each passer had to deal with,the play could have been far worse.
Between the three quarterbacks that started games (Josh McCown,Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis),they combined for 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions,which isn't a number that leads many leagues,but wouldn't have been a number that makes one wince either.
McCown had problems staying healthy and had some high-profile miscues,but he set a Browns record for passing yards in a game and wasn't a minus on the overall.
McCown was always around (even when injured) and did exactly what he was brought in for-keep the position warm,try to tutor Johnny Manziel and act with class.
I would have little problem with McCown returning to try to mentor whatever rookie that they draft this year.
Johnny Manziel showed glimmers of progress,especially when allowed to freelance as he did at Texas A&M,but still struggled in the pocket and with his off the field issues,just isn't worth the hassles that his behavior brings with him.
Austin Davis pretty much is about what you would expect from a third string quarterback,but the decision to sign him to a long term contract stills makes me wonder when you have the ability to sign someone for that slot for around the minimum without losing production.

The running game wasn't the best either,but did have its occasional bright spots.
Isaiah Crowell finished with over 700 yards as the main back. On a good team,Crowell isn't the back to be the bellcow,but he can be solid as a secondary back.
Duke Johnson wasn't anything special as a ballcarrier (379 yards on 104 carries),but showed electric moves as a pass catcher with 61 receptions and looks to be a long term contributor in a third down/pass receiving role.
Only one other player carried the ball more than twice-the since released Robert Turbin (60 yards on 18 carries),who showed a disturbing tendency to fumble on his way out the door.

The wide receivers were led by Travis Benjamin,who fell just short of 1,000 yards on 68 catches.
Benjamin started faster than he finished,but some of that can be attributed to being a little under the radar in early play and being the big play target when Josh McCown played,who preferred going downfield more than Johnny Manziel.
I still think Benjamin is better suited to being a second or even third receiver,but on the 2015 Browns,he was clearly the best they had.
The remainder of the corps struggled with injuries and missed time,which led to a parade of no-name receivers throughout the season.
Brian Hartline made some tremendous catches,but missed three games and often was ignored by the various passers.
Taylor Gabriel missed three games,but caught just 28 passes and appeared to regress over the season.
Andrew Hawkins was out for half the season with concussion issues and was deeply missed at the slot position.
Hawkins hopefully will be able to return to full health for 2016 as Hue Jackson has experience with Hawkins with the Bengals and should use him often.
Marlon Moore is more of a special teamer type and the less I mention the waste of dollars on Dwayne Bowe (nine million for five catches) the better.
Terrelle Pryor likely made the training camp roster with his one spectacular catch (only one of the season) against Pittsburgh and knowing Hue Jackson helps him there.
Actually,it wouldn't surprise me to see Jackson either return Pryor as a backup QB or at least use him often in trick play formation/play calls.

The tight end position brought far more than fans could have ever expected from Gary Barnidge.
Barnidge came to Cleveland with a reputation as a strong blocker with limited pass catching skills.
Barnidge proved all of those wrong with a phenomenal season that surprisingly surpassed that of the departed Jordan Cameron.
Barnidge finished with 79 catches (many of them in the jaw-dropping category) and for over one thousand yards-Barnidge deserved the contract extension that he signed before the end of the season.
One feels silly asking for more from Gary Barnidge,but it could happen.
When you look at the numbers that Tyler Eifert accumulated in Cincinnati under a Hue Jackson offense,one could see even more from Barnidge-if the Browns have the ability to give him some help on the outside.
The other three tight ends combined for eight catches and under one hundred yards.
Jim Dray was essentially a blocker,Rob Housler suffered a season-ending injury early in the year and E.J. Bibbs didn't see the field much after showing unique physical skills in the pre-season.
I'd like to see more of Bibbs in 2016.

The offensive line was better than you would think from a three win team.
The tackles were good enough as left tackle Joe Thomas continued on his way to the Hall of Fame and Mitchell Schwartz put together his best season as a Brown-just in time for the Browns to lose him via free agency.
The guards were a little above average,albeit not tremendous.
Joel Bitonio missed the final month with an ankle injury and took a small step back after a tremendous 2014 as a rookie.
John Greco was his typical steady self at right guard-solid,but unspectacular.
Alex Mack returned from his broken ankle and suffered a drop in play.
Not that Mack was poor,but he clearly was not what he had been before the injury.
Mack is going to likely explore free agency and for a 30 year old player that might be in decline,Mack might be too expensive for my tastes to return.
First round pick Cameron Erving was touted as the best center in the draft,but versatile enough to play tackle or guard.
What the Browns received was a disappointment on a level rarely seen even by Cleveland standards.
Erving had lowlights of being bowled over and thrown into backfields to the point of having issues even blocking for field goal attempts.
Erving looked to be not strong enough for guard or quick enough for tackle among other issues.
Center is still reported to be his best position,so I'm open to him being the replacement for Alex Mack,should Mack leave,but he needs to hit the weight room in a major way during the downtime.

Travis Coons was 28 of 32 on field goals,but was kept away from long field goals because a low trajectory lended itself to the possibility of blocks.
Coons performance was more acceptable,but I would love to see a bigger leg challenge Coons for 2016.

Grades

Quarterback C-
Nothing great to see,but quarterback play is really hard to grade with a team that saddles the passer with so few weapons.

Running Back D
The numbers simply don't indicate anything to get more excited about than that other than Duke Johnson's numbers as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

Wide Receiver D
You get what you pay for and Ray Farmer's lack of interest in upgrading the passing game gave him what he deserved-a lost job.
Travis Benjamin almost lifted the grade to a C-.
Almost.

Tight End A
Gary Barnidge was tremendous and was the only offensive skill player to stand out every week...

Offensive Line B
Better in pass protection than as true earth movers in the running game and with the issues of Cameron Erving whenever he filled in considered,the O-Line might not have been worth the dollars spent on them,but still was more than adequate on the whole.

Kicker C-
Travis Coons was accurate enough,but the failings outside of 40 yards deeply hurt a team that often struggled to move the ball into scoring range...

I'll look at the defense sometime soon.....


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Devils rally by Rangers!

The New Jersey Devils twice tied the New York Rangers and then put the game away on a David Schlemko goal (5 Power play) with the man advantage to left the Devils to a 3-2 win at the Rock.
The Devils win moved them within two points of the Rangers for second place in the division among four teams in that race.
New Jersey also received goals from Lee Stempniak (15 Power play) and Joseph Blandisi (2) in the win.
New Jersey travels to Toronto on Thursday to meet the Maple Leafs and their new logo...

Hell Raisers

1) Nice to settle in and do a game review for a change.
Not sure how many I'll be doing,but I'll take them as I go.
This was a fun game to watch as Ranger games usually are,but the Devils have taken such a step forward under John Hynes that they are more competitive than the last few years.

2) Loved the second game tying goal by Joe Blandisi.
On a team that still needs to add speed,Blandisi has the potential to be part of the improved skating and on this play,he simply blazed by Dan Girardi like he was a trash can on the corner and snapped the puck by Henrik Lundquist for the goal.

3) The Devils still have some holes to be filled,if they are truly going to revamp the team,but New Jersey has found themselves a few spare parts to be a temporary fix.
One of which was Lee Stempniak with his 15 goals and almost as many teams on his resume'.
Players like this are going to be the bridge to the eventual contender,but it's very cool when journeyman players are able put a good year together because it's so unexpected...

4) Cory Schneider really only allowed one goal as the first of the two J.T, Miller goals was on a 2 on 1 breakaway.
Schneider has put together a strong season and made some excellent saves in the victory.

5) Two power play goals showed the Devils making strides on the man advantage.
It was clearly the difference in the game,but for a team that has struggled over the last few seasons,this improvement goes a long way in helping the Devils in a potential playoff season.

6) I was dubious of David Schlemko's signing as more than a 7th defenseman type because I feared he would take time away from a younger player.
I was wrong.
Schlemko has been better than expected and added a two way blueliner that the team needed....

This was fun,I'll try to be back for Toronto.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bullpen Notes

Those of you that are long time readers (or if you cared enough to go back through the archives to the early years) might remember bullpen notes.
Bullpen Notes were a smaller daily version of Cleaning out the inbox that was usually located below the daily recap of the game review.

I miss daily recaps (funny from the guy that has done almost no Devils and Cavaliers coverage this winter),but I wanted to bring back bullpen notes as a way to catch people up with the latest plans for the TRS family and other things to hit the mind...

Off the stick-we landed a GREAT guest for the podcast over the weekend!
I'm not going to announce the name yet,but if you are a golfer or a golf fan-I'd bet you have heard of this person.
The interview will be Sunday night and upload either Sunday or Monday.
I'm very excited for this one!

I'm also trying to learn some more on the PC as I'm attempting (small steps) to learn how to upload the podcast to YouTube and ITunes.
The exposure that the podcast (and blog trickledown) would gain from those two spots would be a large benefit to the podcast....
If anyone knows how to do such things and wants to spend the time to teach me-LMK!

I'll also have a second podcast on Sunday as I'll be visiting the sponsor to do one with Steve Brandenburg for open discussion on sports,the baseball card hobby and likely some political talk as well.
That episode will likely be uploaded in the middle of next week.

Another podcast before winter's end will be the long awaited USFL show on the late and lamented United State Football League.
Jeff Pearlman of the New York Times has agreed to guest on the show.
Jeff is currently working on a book on the league and I cannot wait to read that one!

I enjoyed watching the Iowa Caucus coverage last night.
We might be the only family that had a small food party for the Iowa caucus instead of the Super Bowl!
I watch CNN's coverage.mainly because I prefer their pundits to those of Fox,despite me being a fan of Megyn Kelly of Fox.

Judging by the stats,Blog readership was up an astonishing 23 percent in January!
If you have been Facebook sharing and/or Retweeting on Twitter-we thank you!!

Working on two of my favorite pieces for 2016 as we will do "If I ran a network",which looks at who I would hire as a program director with unlimited funds and "the Zabbies" for boxers that need to move that I'm tired of seeing.
Both are a lot of fun to write...

63 or 64 days from my first game in 2016.
All depends on the team accepting my pass for Opening Day.
The teams in minor league baseball are not obligated to do so and I'm just not up to fighting over it,if it's a big deal....

Hope you enjoyed this and thanks to all of you for reading and listening!!!