Thursday, April 30, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox

Courtesy; Richard Walker 
A long-awaited cleaning out the inbox begins with The Athletic writing about baseball uniforms and what various teams have used through the years along with defunct teams.
Lots of information to find here and that's including one nugget that I didn't know- the Texas Rangers returning to powder blue to use for their Sunday jerseys.
This made this writer far more excited about this than you would think that it would (Remember that I spent my first years as a Rangers fan) until I looked at them and was pretty disappointed.
BUT the best part was the pictured uniforms for the Toronto Giants that had never been seen before!
In the winter of 1976, the bleeding dollars of the longtime owners of the San Francisco Giants, the Stoneham family, were preparing to move the Giants to Toronto.
Toronto planned unveiling of the new logo and uniforms and a press conference was fifteen minutes away from starting before a phone call broke the news that the Giants had reached a deal to remain in Northern California.
Toronto would see the Blue Jays fly into town for the 1977 season, but National League baseball almost had Montreal vs Toronto for all those seasons.
Richard Walker is the person that designed the logo and uniforms and brought them out into the open for the first time.

The Athletic writes about Whitey's Booze and Burgers, the legendary Richfield, Ohio bar/restaurant that has been reputed for their great burgers and chili, but also as the former hangout for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA teams that came through Richfield during the era of the Coliseum as the home of the Cavaliers.
The article tells lots of stories about those Cavaliers and their coaches with a hilarious story about the night the matriarch of the Bigadza family, who have owned Whitey's since its 1953 opening, locked eyes for a showdown against Ted Stepien, the Cavaliers owner that not only ran the team into the ground but forced the NBA to create the "Stepien Rule" of teams not being able to trade first-round picks in back to back rounds, which is a rule that exists to this day.
Whitey's is still displaying plenty of memorabilia from the Coliseum times, so for that reason alone, Whitey's continues its residence at the top of my list of places that I still need to see in Ohio.

One more from The Athletic as the topic is ESPN's first coverage of the NFL Draft forty years ago in 1980.
Various ESPN personalities, including a then-twenty-five-year-old Bob Ley, talk about the nuts and bolts of the fairly new network televising an event that then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle wondered why anyone would even consider putting on the air or in ESPN's case, the satellite.
It's hard to believe how far draft coverage has moved forward in that period as something that the leader of the league laughed about a network being interested and then becoming an industry all of its own.

The Ringer discusses the end of the XFL with the tag of "the league that was better than expected".
It really was better than expected and I still think the league would have returned for 2021 had the mess of Covid-19 not arrived on the American scene with all the damage that it has caused.
It writes of the successes of the league and its innovations, especially the kickoff rule which seemed to achieve the goal of being an exciting play and still safer than a conventional kickoff.
There have been rumors of the league potentially being sold through bankruptcy and a new owner returning the league for 2021, but that seems unlikely for the obvious reasons.
And when you add that commissioner Oliver Luck is suing Vince McMahon for firing him the day before closing the league 'for cause' when Luck claims there wasn't a firable offense and that could affect a new owner, the XFL's return is a long shot at best.

Arstechnica wraps us up with an enhanced look at the Apollo 13 service module with a much better picture than the familiar black and white version.
Apollo 13 recently passed the fifty-year mark of its mission and photographer Andy Saunders of Great Britain 'stacked' several frames of the same picture that brought out more color and detail than had been previously seen.
The service module blew out a portion of its side as the 1970 mission traveled to the moon and would result in the film Apollo 13.
Saunders is an Apollo buff and does this work as a hobby, while the original images are kept in a vault in Houston at the Johnson Space Center and NASA will occasionally bring images out to be re-scanned with new technology.
Those scans not only can improve the image quality but preserves the original that only gets older and degrades as the film of the era grows more brittle.












Wednesday, April 29, 2020

2020 Draft with the AFC North

The Cleveland Browns scored points on my card with the quality of their draft, but did their draft exceed the other teams in the division?

The defending champion Baltimore Ravens did very well by not even moving up in the first three rounds.
Their linebackers were the weakest position on defense and with the addition of first-rounder Patrick Queen of LSU and third-round selection Malik Harrison of Ohio State, the Ravens have immediately upgraded their defense.
Also, drafting what might be the best running back in the draft in Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins bulks up an already dangerous rushing game is a major addition and two receivers could both make the team in third-rounder Devin Duvernay of Texas and James Proche, a sixth-rounder from SMU.
Another excellent draft for Baltimore.

Cincinnati's Bengals finished with the league's worst record and did very well in picking first in each round.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will be the franchise's base at quarterback and second-round wide receiver Tee Higgins of Clemson gives Burrow a receiver to grow alongside Burrow.
Cincinnati rebuilt their linebacking corps as well with two excellent picks in third-rounder Logan Wilson of Wyoming and Akeem Davis-Gaither, the first pick of the fourth round from Appalachian State.
Wilson is a tackling machine and Davis-Gaither is a well-rounded linebacker that should be a three-down linebacker in time.

Pittsburgh didn't own their first-round pick, but they may have landed a first-round level talent in the second round with Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool, who gives the Steelers the big play ability to get downfield and can return kicks as he matures as a player.
Third round linebacker Alex Highsmith of Charlotte is the type of player that is a Steeler fit into their version of the 3-4 that was higher rated by the Steelers than other teams.
Pittsburgh may have gotten the steal of the draft in Maryland running back Anthony McFarland in the fourth round.
McFarland has questions about staying healthy and some teams questioned his attitude, but if he is moving on all cylinders, McFarland could be another in the line of middle-round Pittsburgh backs that prove to be strong contributors.

All four of the teams in the division did well in the draft and none of the four has a glaring pick that makes you wonder what they were thinking.
Considering that all four teams have improved via the draft, I don't think anything has changed to shuffle the order of power in the division, but all four may have the potential to reach the expanded playoffs in the next season.

I like Baltimore's draft best as they added quality players to their core without giving anything up to do so.
Cleveland finishes second as they addressed their two largest problem areas and didn't have to move up to do so either.
I'll put Cincinnati a strong third with four excellent picks and coming away with their quarterback for the next decade.
Pittsburgh finished fourth, mainly because of their lack of a first-rounder, but still came away with a possible replacement for Antonio Brown and maybe even their running back of the future as well, so
the Steelers did quite well.

This post is going up later than I expected due to the Maryland Department of Labor occupying over 15 hours over two days to place my wife's claim for the week due to Covid-19.
Thanks, guys.




Monday, April 27, 2020

Browns Draft Recap

Everyone always says how much they hate the grading of drafts immediately following the draft and how unfair it is, half will be wrong, etc.

And those same people read them all and in many cases write them, so why is that?
Because it's speculation and with the draft, speculation is fun!

I could sum this draft up quickly and without detail and simply say it's an A-.

The Browns landed arguably the best tackle in the draft in Alabama's Jedrick Wills in the first and my top-ranked safety in LSU's Grant Delpit in round two without giving anything up and adding a fifth-rounder to a draft that lacked one when the draft started.
Both Wills and Delpit almost certainly will be immediate starters.
Missouri defensive tackle Jordan Elliott is rated highly, should be a rotational player this season, and perhaps more for the 2021 season with both Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson eligible for free agency after the 2020 term.

One often hears the term "Overdrafted" when a player goes earlier than expected, but the Browns used two picks for receivers that use the seldom-used term "Underdrafted" with John Mackey Award winner Harrison Bryant of Florida Atlantic in the fourth round and Michigan wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones in the sixth frame.
Bryant should see plenty of field time in the Kevin Stefanski offense as a receiving tight end and Peoples-Jones may not break into the lineup at wide receiver as quickly, but should have a chance to help with returning punts, which he did at Michigan, and perhaps kickoffs as well.

Some questioned the choice of Washington center Nick Harris due to his size, but Harris can play guard, fits the zone blocking scheme of new offensive line coach Bill Callahan, and could be the eventual replacement for J.C. Tretter, despite Tretter contract extension that he signed last year.
LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips is an excellent tackler that has questions about his pass coverage.
At a minimum, Phillips should be able to be a two-down linebacker for Cleveland and even though I preferred Ohio State's Malik Harrison, who was taken one pick later by Baltimore, the worst thing that I can say about Phillips is that he might have been drafted a little early and it could be that new defensive coordinator Joe Woods might think that Phillips suits what he wants from his defense more than Harrison will.

Here are my kudos and concerns from the draft.
Please keep in mind that these are not projections on my mind, just some thoughts from each side of the ledger, and do not mean that I am predicting that either side is predictions on my part.

Kudos

1: When your guys fall to you- Don't get cute- take him.
The Browns did just that in the first round with Jedrick Wills and on day three with Harrison Bryant.
In the past, the Browns would get too clever, try to get something else and wind up losing your guy.
This time they stayed put and took their player, now let's see if Wills is the best of four very good tackle prospects.

2: The draft did set up for the Browns at 41 in the second round with Grant Delpit, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Ashtyn Davis all available for the Browns to fill their need at safety.
With all three available when the Colts called to talk about moving up from 44, it made sense to take the free fifth-rounder as the Colts were unlikely to take a safety.
The Browns were then guaranteed that one of the three was going to be on the board for their pick.
That's a smart time to move down and add assets.

3: I've stated through the years that teams become playoff teams by accumulating players that can make impact plays and not by amassing multiple players that are average.
The Browns usually did this as part of the trading down process that the analytics people love so much but in this draft, Cleveland managed to grab the best tackle, best safety, and maybe the best pass-catching tight end.
Impact players that make a difference will be the core of turning this organization around.

Concerns

1: I still wonder about the third-round selection of Jacob Phillips over Malik Harrison.
The Browns have noted that they like Phillips in passing situations as a good coverage linebacker, but when you watch his video, you see that Phillips doesn't have great lateral mobility and needs work in coverage.
I'm not the professional and I'm not knocking Phillips as a player at all as he has plenty to like, but I do find that a bit odd.

2) While I really like all three of the picks on the final day, I do wish that the Browns had found a way for another linebacker to be added.
The Browns linebackers are very young with only journeyman B.J. Goodson having experience beyond second-year men or rookies, so I'd be surprised if Andrew Berry doesn't go shopping for a veteran free agent either now or in June for a bargain cap casualty.

3) While I like the pick of Jordan Elliott for both value and talent, I do wonder about a pass rusher at defensive end.
It's clear that Olivier Vernon is going to return and should Vernon be able to stay healthy, he will more than provide the needed help for Myles Garrett off the edge.
However, Vernon's health is a fair topic to question as he has missed four or more games in each of the last three seasons.
Veteran Adrian Clayborn could help in limited situations and I guess the Browns can hope for Chad Thomas to show something, but if Vernon can't stay on the field the defensive end spot is a major concern.

There's a lot to like about this draft for the Browns and there isn't a clear scream at the TV selection here as even the best drafts in the past have possessed (Chad Thomas over Sam Hubbard, anyone?).
However, the other teams in the AFC North did quite well in the draft as well and it's fair to question how much the gap between the Browns and the Ravens/Steelers has been narrowed.
How well did they do?
I'll be back soon with a look at the drafts of the other divisional rivals and how well their haul worked out for 2020.





Sunday, April 26, 2020

Browns select Donovan Peoples-Jones

The Cleveland Browns completed their draft early as their sixth-round choice would be their final one of the 2020 NFL Draft after the Browns included their seventh-rounder in their second-day trade with the Saints that brought a 2021 third-rounder to the Browns from New Orleans.

And Cleveland drafted a player with that pick that I would have been pleased with had they taken him in the third or fourth round in selecting Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer had quickly answered in an interview earlier in the week that Donovan Peoples-Jones was the most underrated player in the entire draft.
While Meyer heavily recruited Peoples-Jones to Ohio State, he mentioned Peoples-Jones before any of the Ohio State receivers in the draft and that says a lot to me.

Donovan Peoples-Jones has been the one player that when Ohio State played Michigan that I would be concerned about and that's despite a career that saw him never reach 100 yards receiving in a game.
The former five-star recruit finished 2019 with 34 catches for 438 yards in eleven games with six catches ending in touchdowns.
At just under 6'2, Peoples-Jones doesn't have a rap for bad hands and he can make the leaping catch with the extra "wow" factor and DPJ tested extremely well at the NFL combine.

So, why did a player with his talent slide to the sixth round?
Michigan didn't feature a quarterback that showed any consistency and they did have problems getting the football to him.
Plus Peoples-Jones was coming out a year early, which didn't help him in a year that has arguably the deepest WR class in draft history and caused him to fade into the crowd a bit with a knock as an underachiever.
Dan Shonka of Ourlads liked Peoples-Jones more than most as he rated him as a third or fourth-round player with "number one receiver potential" while Dane Brugler of The Athletic was less bullish on him with the main knock on his speed taking time to reach its top-level.
Brugler described Peoples-Jones as "needing a runway" to get started and could have trouble on the short routes with the cuts and agility with his problems at getting to full speed off the ball.

Peoples-Jones doesn't have a bad attitude and hasn't been in trouble, so his slide wasn't due to off the field issues and his goal after football is to be an orthopedic surgeon like his father.
It appears to me that the issues with the quarterbacking and the offense at Michigan combined with the deep class at his position caused the drop beyond his talent, so his decision to leave a year early doesn't look like a good one at this time.

Donovan Peoples-Jones was described as high-risk high reward entering the draft but in the sixth round?
Well, I'd refer to him as low-risk high reward after the sixth round and while he might make his biggest impact in his rookie season as a kick returner, I'm very comfortable with a player of his talent without character issues with the Browns final pick.

I'll likely be back next time with a look at the entire draft and maybe how it ranks against the other AFC North opponents.







Browns select Nick Harris

The Cleveland Browns finished their draft in the fifth and sixth rounds with two interesting players.
I'll be back next time with the Browns sixth-round choice

The fifth-round selection was obtained from the Indianapolis Colts as the price for dropping three slots in the second round on the draft's second day and Cleveland used it on Washington center Nick Harris.
Harris was named to the All-Pac 12 first team for the last two seasons for the Huskies and started in his sophomore season at guard.
Harris stands at under 6'1 and weighs in at 305 pounds and the two position versatility could come in handy this season for the Browns, who may even decide to use Harris as another challenger for the starting right guard position as well as the backup at center for J.C. Tretter.

Harris seems to be a smart and strong center with the only issue seeming to be slightly undersized
(Isn't it funny that the game has reached the point that 300 pounders can be considered undersized?)
at 300 pounds and the lack of height is the biggest red flag for scouts on Harris.
Dane Brugler rated Harris as a third-rounder and writes that Harris might be a terrific fit in a zone-blocking system, which just happens to be the system that new offensive line coach Bill Callahan will be installing for the Browns.

In other words, the Browns drafted a player that they rated higher than others because they think the player suits their needs perfectly.
That is exactly what the Steelers have been doing for years in drafting players that may not be as talented as other players in a particular draft, but gives them the skills to slip right into what their system asks for.
Suddenly in what seemed to be a routine fifth-round draft pick, I have a little more faith in what the Browns are attempting to build.
Now, can Jimmy Haslam develop the patience needed to see things through?










Saturday, April 25, 2020

Browns select Harrison Bryant

The Cleveland Browns were expected to look at a receiver on the final day of the NFL Draft, but it was expected to be at wide receiver.

The Browns instead tabbed tight end, Harrison Bryant of Florida Atlantic, with their fourth-round pick and even though Bryant may not be as well-known as some pass catchers, this is a very interesting selection.

Bryant was the top player pictured in Dane Brugler's look at the best player available going into the last day of the draft on The Athletic website and Bryant won the John Mackey Award last season for the top tight end in the country.
Bryant caught 65 passes for over 1,000 yards for the Owls of Florida Atlantic with seven of those passes for touchdowns.
Bryant is considered to be more of a pass-catching threat than a blocking tight end and at 6'4 Bryant should be a different player to defend in the red zone.

Bryant didn't have a great combine and that could have been the difference in being selected in the fourth round compared to his projected third round.
The Browns will use multiple tight ends often under Kevin Stefanski and Stefanski's offense used three tight ends on the field roughly half the time during his offensive coordinator tenure with the Vikings, so the drafting of Bryant doesn't have to be a sign that David Njoku is on his way out of Cleveland.

It's an interesting selection and one that draft experts seem to like, so Harrison Bryant could be an athletic tight end that puts up surprising numbers this season in the new offense.


Browns select Jordan Elliott and Jacob Phillips

Entering the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns had done quite well for themselves with the selections of tackle Jedrick Wills on the draft's first evening and safety Grant Delpit earlier in the night.

Cleveland owned two choices in the third round to end the second day of the draft-their own and the Houston Texans compensation pick near the end of the round that the Browns added in the trade that sent Duke Johnson to the Texans.
The Browns would not use their choice as they would send that pick to New Orleans, who would take Wisconsin linebacker Zach Baun, and the Browns seventh-rounder (244) in return for the Saints pick later in the round ( 14 picks later), and their third-rounder in the 2021 draft.

Cleveland used the pick from New Orleans to select defensive tackle Jordan Elliott of Missouri.
The 6'4 Elliott was ranked by Pro Football Focus, the site most fancied by the Browns front office, as the top defender overall in the SEC as far as their grading process goes.
Elliott finished last season with eight and a half tackles for loss and is known as a player that can make stops in the backfield and adds some pass rush up the middle.
Elliott isn't known as an especially strong run-stuffer but isn't considered to be a liability as well.
Elliott owns above-average speed for the position and is very nimble off blocks, but isn't as strong as you would like for your defensive tackle.
Elliott has a chance to mature into a three-down lineman, should he add more strength to his game and mature into playing the run better, but should be a rotational lineman as early as this season with the ability to perhaps be more.


The Browns did use their pick that was obtained from the Houston Texans and at a position of need with the selection of another LSU Tiger in inside linebacker Jacob Phillips.
Phillips led the national champions in tackles and is a player that is an excellent finisher in wrapping up his ballcarrier.
Jacob Phillips can blitz the passer, makes the plays at home, and can run down the ballcarrier and I think Phillips has a chance to battle for a starting role right away with his opposition being journeyman B.J. Goodson and second-year player Sione Takitaki.
The question for Phillips is how he can play in the passing downs?
If he can adapt to pass coverage, Phillips will be a very productive player and even if he can't get the hang of coverage right away, Phillips will still be a solid two-down linebacker.
I did like Phillips but liked Ohio State's Malik Harrison a little better and Harrison was selected by the division rival Ravens with the pick that followed the Phillips selection, so it'll be interesting to follow how both players perform.
Phillips might have been drafted a little early and the Browns may have gotten better value for him in the fourth round, but I'm Ok with the pick when you consider that there were only eighteen picks between this one and the Browns fourth-rounder at 115.


Onto the final day as the Browns now own three picks after their two trades on Friday night.
The Browns own their own pick in round four, the Colts pick in round five (160), and the Cardinals pick in round six (187).
It would not surprise me that should the Browns receive an attractive offer in the fourth round to see the Browns drop down a little in the fourth or fifth to add a seventh-rounder as they currently lack one.
I'm thinking the Browns look at wide receiver, another linebacker, and perhaps an offensive lineman with those three picks, but after the fourth round, Cleveland could very easily go the best player available route.

I'll have a look at the newest three (or more) Browns later today.


Friday, April 24, 2020

Browns select Grant Delpit

The Cleveland Browns traded down in the second round three spots with the Indianapolis Colts to gain a fifth-round choice and with both safeties that I hoped would be available with their pick at 41, were both available at 44th overall.

I barely mentioned LSU's Grant Delpit because I believed that he would have been selected well before the Browns second-round choice and I was hoping for Antoine Winfield Jr. from Minnesota as the Browns pick in the second round.
However, I was surprised to see Delpit still available and of the two I did give Delpit the edge.

Andrew Berry decided to take the best player available and by doing so, the Browns landed a standout defensive back that surprisingly fell out of the first round from LSU and wound up with my top-rated safety in Grant Delpit one year after drafting cornerback Greedy Williams under similar conditions.
Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back in 2019, but was regarded as having played better in 2018 after some struggles last season dealing with a high ankle sprain for much of the season.

The LSU Tiger safety is physical against the run, but plays well in space and can leap to grab the high pass as shown in the photo above.
At 6'3, Delpit can leap over receivers, cover tight ends, and with his seven sacks in the last two years, Delpit can be used in blitzing the quarterback as well.
Had Delpit entered the draft in 2019, Delpit would have almost certainly been taken in the top fifteen picks and this is an absolute steal for the Browns.

I love this pick for the Browns in talent and value and the added bonus of picking up the Colts fifth-round pick for tomorrow's final day.
The Browns did not have a fifth-rounder (having sent the pick to Buffalo for guard Wyatt Teller) entering the draft, so this makes a good move even better.

I'll be back later tonight with reports on the Browns third-rounder and a bit more on Grant Delpit.




Browns select Jedrick Wills

The tenth pick arrived in the first round for the Cleveland Browns in Thursday's NFL Draft and they had three of the four options available to plug their hole at left tackle as only Andrew Thomas of Georgia had been selected before the Browns choice.

I had written the day before about the four tackles and about which I liked best of a field so closely matched and when I wrote the piece, I liked Tristan Wirfs best with his Iowa background and combine showing, Andrew Thomas as the most NFL ready, Mehki Becton as the player with the highest potential and highest bust factor and Jedrick Wills as perhaps the best all-around lineman, but with a question about his shorter arm reach.

After I was finished, something was nagging at me about the post and I knew what it was- I needed to look at these guys again.
Every draft writer seemed to have the four players in a different order with Dane Brugler of The Athletic rating Jedrick Wills first and Ourlads listing Tristan Wirfs in the first slot and Wills fourth.
I wrote the other two persons of interest posts and decided to skip my normal Browns preview on the team needs to watch more videos of the four tackles.

Side note: I had never heard of someone named "Voch Lombardi" before he made a guest appearance on a Browns' podcast and I was impressed with his knowledge of offensive line work.
I made sure to watch his videos (I didn't the first time) and I was quite impressed- if you want to look at your team's draftee (If not, Jedrick Wills) give Voch Lombardi a look.


I decided to watch different videos than I had previously, spent a few hours watching the four players, taking notes, etc and when the night was finished I realized that I had made a mistake.
That mistake was underrating Jederick Wills, whom I had rated behind Tristan Wirfs and Andrew Thomas and ahead of Mekhi Becton.
Without writing another post, I made this note inside the book of players that I keep each year-Jedrick Wills is at least even with Tristan Wirfs as my favorite and could prove to be the best of this class.

Back to the Browns and the clock is rolling, I still would be happy with any of the three but I'm hoping for Wirfs or Wills, but these are the Browns and for the good work that Cleveland accomplished in free agency, I still have the uneasy memories of Andrew Berry's drafts that he assisted Sashi Brown in that era, which basically ended with Myles Garrett and not much else with various trades that saw the Browns move down for multiple picks with few panning out.
Well, give Berry credit because the Browns kept the tenth pick and took Jedrick Wills as their selection to plug the left tackle opening for a long time.

At 6'4 and 312 pounds, Jedrick Wills has slightly more than average size (which says a lot for the evolution of size for an offensive lineman), but has very nimble feet and is extremely athletic and is the best pass-blocking tackle available.
In one of the videos that feature Wills is picking defenders off their feet and throwing them back downfield in pass protection.
Wills is a tackle that can overpower a rusher, yet has enough finesse to deal with someone attacking off the edge as he keeps his feet and finishes off his blocks.
Wills does have shorter arms than one would like from an elite tackle and could have some issues with the best power rushers for his first year or two until he gains experience, but other than that doesn't really have a weakness.

I also realized when looking at the tackles post, that I had forgotten to write something that I wanted to add as I mentioned Wills (and Tristan Wirfs as well) would be moving from the right tackle to the left tackle position, but I left out a portion that I wished I hadn't- Wills was blocking for Tua Tagovailoa, a left-handed passer.
Left tackle is usually the key spot on the line for pass protection, but for Alabama, Tagovailoa was their quarterback and his blindside was being protected by the right tackle-Jedrick Wills.

Tackle is a position that hits in the first round as often as it misses and nothing is a guarantee, but the Browns seem to have the makings of a pretty decent offensive line with Jedrick Willis and Joel Bitonio on the left side, J.C. Tretter at the center position and Jack Conklin at right tackle with only a battle at right guard to decided at training camp.
I'm a believer in building programs around exceptional players rather than quantities of average ones and by staying at the tenth pick, the Browns may have added an exceptional player.
Andrew Berry continues a good start in running the Browns and has a second and two third-rounders to use in tonight's second day of the draft.
It'll be interesting to see what he comes up with tonight.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: Defensive Players

The Cleveland Browns do have their needs on defense, but the interesting point entering the draft is when do the Browns address the defense?

The top two players in the draft are both defensive players, but Ohio State defensive end Chase Young will be selected with the second pick by the Redskins (Young's hometown team) or someone that trades up to take him.

The draft's second-best player would normally be unavailable at the Browns tenth pick, but some mock drafts have Clemson's All-World defender Isaiah Simmons available at the tenth pick.
It takes a certain scenario to occur in which the top three quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert), the four tackles mentioned in the previous post, Young, the best defensive tackle in Auburn's Derrick Brown, and the top corner in the draft in Ohio State's Jeffrey Okudah comprising the top nine picks in the draft, but it's not one to be ignored considering that I listed ten players for nine spots.

Simmons can play any spot on the defense between rushing off the edge, linebacker, safety, and even a cover defensive back against a tight end and is the type of defender that excels in today's game.
Big, fast, and aggressive, Simmons would bring to Cleveland what they haven't had since their 1999 return with the possible exception of Myles Garrett- the type of three-down defender that can change games.
I'm tired of seeing the Steelers and Ravens owning the players that make a difference and it's far from a sure thing that Simmons is even available, but if he is- the Browns are going to have a difficult time explaining that they passed on him.
Even with the need at tackle, that's a tough explanation and lord forbid that Simmons is available and Andrew Berry decides to trade down!

The Browns could use some help along the defensive line, especially at the opposite end from Myles Garrett, where they haven't decided on keeping Olivier Vernon, taking a shot at Jadeveon Clowney or investing in a draftee.
I can see the Browns trying at end with one of their two third-round picks, but should they decide to try one either by trading back into the first round or someone unexpected falling to the second-rounder like Iowa's A.J. Epenesa, who is a versatile three-down lineman with a solid pass rush.
Epenesa will likely not be available for the Browns pick (41) in the second round, but if he is on the board, I'd have to give him plenty of consideration.
Should the Browns try defensive end in the third round, I really like Raekwon Davis of Alabama at that spot.
The 6'6 Davis is very fast and with some work could be a havoc bringer off the edge.
Davis was tremendous as a sophomore but did plateau in his final two seasons.
Still with his tools and without a reputation for attitude issues, should the Browns look at end, this is my guy.
If the Browns decide to wait until day three, I really liked Derrek Tuszka of North Dakota State when I saw him play in the Bison's two 1-AA playoff games and Kenny Willekes of Michigan State is one of those players that doesn't look the part, but finds a way to produce.
Willekes was a walk-on that made three All-Big 10 teams and won the conference's defensive lineman of the year award in 2018.
I don't see the Browns taking a defensive tackle, but should they throw a day three dart, I love LSU's Rashard Lawrence, who will be a standout run-stuffer at worst and has an upside of a Shaun Rogers type.
Lawrence is better suited for a 3-4 defense than the 4-3 that the Browns run, but I like his game and think it could play in a 4-3.

Simmons is the best linebacker/safety/hybrid etc. but the Browns still need linebackers after the departures of Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey.
Free-agent signee B.J. Goodson isn't a starter-level player and Sione Takitani disappointed in his first season, yet is a starter as of today.
The Browns may not take a linebacker until the third round at earliest but will be likely to consider one on the final day of the draft.

On the outside, I really like Akeem Davis-Gaither of Appalachian State, who is terrific in pass coverage and is a player that runs to the ball and makes plays upfield.
Davis-Gaither missed the combine due to injury and under the limitations of the "Covid" draft, haven't been able to check out his progress in rehab.
Davis-Gaither could drop a round or two lower than he should because of that reason alone.
Alabama's Terrell Lewis could be a steal similar to Mack Wilson, who fell to the fifth round last year after being projected as a first or second-rounder.
Lewis started just one year at Alabama and could slide to the Browns later than expected.

The inside linebackers can often find a productive player that accumulates tackles from the third round and later in the draft.
While I love Patrick Queen of LSU, the Browns first-rounder is a bit high for Queen, but their second-rounder is not likely to see him available to select.
There are three linebackers that I like at the right price with Logan Wilson of Wyoming topping the list.
Wilson drives through the ballcarrier, can get to the quarterback on the blitz, and could be a three-down linebacker as he develops.
If the Browns added their second Wilson to the linebacking group, I would be very happy to see that occur.
I also like Jordan Brooks of Texas Tech, but a little less than Wilson.
Brooks isn't the tallest player at six feet even and for a player that played in the Big 12, Brooks has questions to answer about his skills in pass coverage.
I think because of his height, Brooks could be available in the mid to late rounds.
Ohio State's Malik Harrison doesn't have the height concerns of Brooks but has similar questions in pass coverage.
Harrison is a strong tackler and I could see him making enough plays to start before his rookie season concludes.

The Browns aren't likely to take a corner, but they do need help at safety and I could see them picking one as high as round two.
As far as the free safeties go, LSU's Grant Delpit would be great, but I don't think he makes to the Browns in round two and I'm not sure Alabama's Xavier McKinney does either.
I like Ashtyn Davis of California, but he has some injury issues that kept him out of the combine.
The Browns have been connected to Jeremy Chinn of Southern Illinois by some and I liked what I saw out of Kenny Robinson, who played in the XFL and could be a late-round surprise.

The strong safeties aren't as depth-filled, but Kyle Dugger of Lenoir-Rhyne looked very good in the Senior Bowl and Antoine Winfield Jr of Minnesota has always been a player that plays well but has been hampered by injuries during his time as a Golden Gopher.
A day three-player here could be Mississippi State's Brian Cole, who impressed at the Senior Bowl and has a history as a kick returner.

This is a little shorter than I wanted as I do need to rest after work.
I'll be back later tonight with thoughts on the Browns day one addition (or additions).





Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: Offensive Skill Players

The Cleveland Browns aren't likely to take many players at the skill positions, but they should definitely select one and on the third and final day of the draft, who knows what they will do as the final three rounds will often see the oft-overused draft phrase "best player available".

With Baker Mayfield as the starter and Case Keenum signed as the solid veteran backup, the Browns are very unlikely to draft a quarterback in the first three rounds, but I could see them draft a developmental arm in the sixth or seventh round.
If so, there is one player that fits the bill for me in Colorado's Steven Montez.
At 6'4 and 230 pounds, Montez has the size that you want from a pocket passer and his tested ball velocity, which is a new quarterback test to measure arm strength, was 59 MPH, tying Montez with Washington's Jacob Eason for the top in the category and was stronger than possible top ten pick Justin Herbert of Oregon and possible first-rounder Jordan Love of Utah State.
Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa didn't take the ball velocity test, but that shows the power arm with Montez.
The questions with Montez are mainly decision-making and accuracy, which are pretty large questions for a quarterback, but should the Browns decide on a later round passer, Steven Montez is an interesting candidate.

The Browns are unlikely to select a running back for a team that always employs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but one never knows if the Browns could use a day three pick on a back.
Should they decide to look into a back in the late rounds, it'll likely be a specialty back such as one that can return kicks or perhaps a third-down pass-catching back.
I like Patrick Taylor of Memphis if the Browns decide on a more conventional back or Cincinnati's Michael Warren if they are looking for a pass catcher.

The wide receiver class is loaded this season with many players that could make a difference that hasn't been seen in one draft in years.
The Browns will likely not look at wide receiver with the tenth pick but could consider a trade in the late first round or on day two to grab one.
Assuming the top three receivers are gone by the time the Browns would consider one in Alabama's twosome of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Riggs and CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma, the two that I would like best would likely require trading back into the first round in LSU's Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins of Clemson.
Jefferson is more of a slot receiver and would fit perfectly as the eventual replacement for Jarvis Landry, while Higgins is an outside receiver that can get downfield and has tremendous ball skills.
Both have excellent hands and I'd be happy with either of them.
Jefferson almost certainly will be taken by Cleveland's second-rounder, while Higgins has a chance to be there, but is far from a guarantee at that stage.
Michael Pittman Jr of USC might be an acceptable compromise if Jefferson and Higgins are off the board.
The son of the former Cardinals running back, the 6'4 Pittman shows great hands and ability to get the football, but he isn't quite as fast as the higher-rated receivers in this draft.
Pittman would be a consideration for me in the second round.

A player that could be a steal for Cleveland is Donovan Peoples-Jones of Michigan, who underachieved due to poor quarterback play.
The physical tools are there for Peoples-Jones and he could be a very interesting choice in the third round.
Ohio State's K.J. Hill would be a reasonable and cheaper alternative to Justin Jefferson out of the slot as his production at Ohio State outweighs his combine numbers.
Some people like Hill far more than others and it'll be interesting to see where Hill actually is drafted.
I also like Florida's Van Jefferson as a medium yardage target and on the final day, I would love to see the Browns take a look at multi-dimensional players Lynn Bowden of Kentucky or K.J. Hamler of Penn State.
Either player can take a short pass for big yardage, can be used for gimmick plays and both can return kicks and the Browns haven't had an explosive player in that mold for a long time.
Late in the draft, Quintez Cephus of Wisconsin is an excellent route runner that could be a nice developmental receiver down the road and Binjimen Victor of Ohio State has the type of size and speed that a patient team may eventually find themselves with a very good player.
Victor could be an effective red-zone receiver at worst and could be a late-round steal for someone out there.

Cleveland may be looking for a tight end, but the crop is very light and unless they are looking for a blocking tight end that could be signed after the draft in free agency, the Browns might be best suited to worry about a tight end next season, should David Njoku leave.

I'll be back later with the defensive side of the ball.



Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest- Offensive Tackles

The Cleveland Browns have one major hole on the offense unless you believe that the 2019 version Baker Mayfield is the quarterback that you will see in 2020 in which case there are two major holes.

For the purposes of this post, let's assume that "Buddy Boy" Baker bounces back into rookie season form and look at the offense under those conditions.

The clear hole is at left tackle, where the Browns have placed various turnstiles passed off as linemen since the retirement of Joe Thomas.
Rumors are still connecting with the Browns trading for Washington's Trent Williams, but Williams hasn't played all sixteen games in a season since 2013, will want a huge extension, and should the Browns not sign him to that extension, Williams would be a free agent after the 2020 season.
The draft is heavy at the top of the draft at tackle, but not especially deep as there could be as many as four tackles selected in the top ten picks, but only three others are considered as late first round or second round level with the four tackles lacking a consensus leader at the position.

While I would be happy with any of the four tackles at ten and would take any there unless the one player that like most in this draft would happen to be available ( see part two), the tackle that I have rated highest in Tristan Wirfs of Iowa.
Wirfs dominated the combine, had an excellent career at Iowa, doesn't come with character issues, and the Hawkeyes come with a history of developing standout linemen at the pro level.
The big question that some have is can Wirfs make the move from the right tackle to the left side after playing almost his entire career on the right side?
Wirfs did play a few games last season at left tackle and didn't struggle, but some scouts see Wirfs best position as eventually being at guard.

I also like Andrew Thomas of Georgia, who has been a left tackle for his college career and would be the safest choice of the four.
Thomas will need developing as a pass blocker, but he should be able to step into the lineup on day one and will be fine as a run blocker.
Thomas may be the best of the four to step in instantly, but I don't think his ceiling is as high as the other three top tackles.

Mekhi Becton of Louisville is the best physical specimen of the group and he has the size and tools that could see him as an All-Pro contender for years.
At 6'7 and 364 pounds, Becton reminds me physically of Orlando Pace, and should Becton play to his potential, the Browns would have the natural successor to Joe Thomas.
The problem is that Becton hasn't always played hard on every down, although that wasn't reported to be an issue last season for the Cardinals.
Becton also has questions about conditioning and staying in shape, which is the difference between a finely tuned big man at 365 pounds and a slowed-down version at 400.
Becton could be tremendous, but he could also be Greg Robinson 2.0 if unmotivated.

Alabama's Jedrick Wills is a well-balanced tackle that also has the question that Tristan Wirfs, can he move from right tackle to left?
Wills has very quick feet, has excellent athleticism and he's capable of playing guard if needed.
Wills is reported to be very competitive and doesn't come with a tag of not playing every down.
Willis is the lightest and shortest of the four linemen and has the shortest arms, which could become an issue against rangier defensive ends and keeping them at length.

I'd be fine with the Browns selecting any of these four, but they may decide to trade down as Cleveland is back to a front office that prefers quantity over quality.
I prefer impact players myself but to each their own and should the Browns address another position or trade down they could still get a tackle in the second round or more likely trade back into the late first round.

USC's Justin Jackson has good size and excellent athletic ability and plays with what Dan Shonka of Ourlad's described as an "aggressive playing style and hustle that will have coaches excited about working with him".
Jackson has been noted to have strength and balance issues, but neither has been described as problems that couldn't be solved with some work.
If one of these three is worth trading back into the first round for, it's Jackson.

Houston's Josh Jones is a player that I have seen often in recent years.
At 6'5 and 319, Jones is more finesse than power, and Jones has the build of a power forward more than a tackle.
Jones ranks with the top four as an athlete and as a pass blocker, but he does need to gain strength for the run game and against the best power rushers.

I've also seen plenty of Boise State's Ezra Cleveland, who has been connected to the Browns as a possibility if the trade down possibility arises.
Cleveland is taller at 6'6 and weighs a bit over 300, but seems to be better as a run blocker than a pass blocker which is unusual for a player from the Mountain West.
I like Cleveland, but I think he might be better as a guard as he matures and while I would be content with him in the second round, trading back into the first for him seems to be a reach.

I could see the Browns taking a guard on day three of the draft with the contenders for what seems to be a wide-open right guard position between Wyatt Teller, Chris Hubbard, and Drew Forbes lacking a solid leader.

My rankings in order of preference.
1) Tristan Wirfs
2) Andrew Thomas
3) Jedrick Wills
4) Mekhi Becton
5) Justin Jackson
6) Josh Jones
7) Ezra Cleveland

I planned on writing an entire piece on the offense, but writing about the tackles took longer than I expected.
I plan on a shorter piece later today on the offensive skill persons of interest and then working on the defensive side tonight from the road office.
If I have the time and there aren't guarantees that I will, I could give a mock draft a try.




Sunday, April 19, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox: Baseball Passings

The inbox will hopefully be passings free for a while after this update.
I always feel a little uneasy when I do too many of these because even though I'm giving a tribute to a person, I don't want to be macabre' about these.
I look at these as a way of remembering a person to someone that may know the person I'm writing about and also a way of introducing them to a reader that may never have heard of them previously.

Goodbye to Al Kaline at the age of 85.
"Mr. Tiger" spent his entire 22-year career with the Tigers, making 18 All-Star teams, winning 10 Gold Gloves, and finished with 3,007 hits with 399 homers to earn induction into the Hall of Fame in 1980.
Known as one of the most gracious persons around baseball, Kaline won his only batting title in 1955 at the age of 20 in hitting .340.
Kaline finished his career with more walks than strikeouts and his arm was known as one of the American League from rightfield.
Kaline was the color analyst for the Tigers local television after his retirement following the 1974 season until 2002 and would serve as a consultant to the Tigers front office until his passing.
Tigers fans around the nation took the loss of the classy Kaline very hard and I think the reaction toward Kaline from those fans is very similar to how Orioles fans feel towards Brooks Robinson.
They certainly don't make them like that often anymore and when they do, the supply is very light.


Goodbye to Damaso Garcia at the age of 63.
Garcia started his sports career as a soccer player in college and captained the Dominican Republic team in the 1974 Central American games.
Garcia moved through the minors in the Yankees system but was traded to Toronto in a six-player trade in 1980.
Garcia would make two All-Star teams in 1984 and 85, hit over .300 in 1983 and 84 for the Blue Jays and in his final five seasons in Toronto, Garcia would not hit lower than .281.
Garcia also stole 54 bases in 1982 as part of his 194 steals with the Blue Jays and was traded to Atlanta after the 1986 season, but would only play 21 games for the Braves and following an eighty game 1989 season with Montreal, Garcia would not play in the big leagues again.
In 1990, Garcia was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was given six months to live, but after having it removed in 1991, Garcia would regain some functions although he wouldn't be allowed to drive a car and did have some speech difficulty for the rest of his life.


Goodbye to Jim Frey at the age of 88.
I remember Frey as part of Earl Weaver's powerhouse coaching staff in the 1970s that included fellow future big league managers George Bamberger and Billy Hunter before taking the difficult position of replacing Whitey Herzog as manager of the Kansas City Royals for the 1980 season.
In the only season that Frey completed in Kansas City, Frey would lead the Royals to their first World Series before losing to Philadelphia in six games.
Frey was fired in the second half of the strike season of 1981 despite the Royals leading the second half at the time of his firing.
Frey would next be given a shot at managing with the Cubs in 1984 and promptly took Chicago to the playoffs for the first time with an Eastern Division championship.
Frey's Cubs won the first two games at home at Wrigley Field against the San Diego Padres in the best of five NLCS, but would then drop the final three games in San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium to lose the series.
Frey was fired as manager in 1986 and served as a color commentator in 1987 for Cubs games before being hired as the general manager in the winter leading to the 1988 season.
Frey made several trades that didn't work out, including trades that sent Lee Smith to Boston and Rafael Palmiero to Texas, but during his tenure as GM, Chicago won the 1989 Eastern Division before losing to San Francisco in four games in the NLCS.
Frey was fired in the middle of the 1991 season by Chicago and would never be more than a consultant in the game again.

Goodbye to Bobby Winkles at the age of 90.
Winkles built the Arizona State baseball program in 1959 and would coach the Sun Devils through the 1971 season winning 524 games, losing only 173 and coaching several future big leaguers including Reggie Jackson.
Winkles left Arizona State to join the California Angels coaching staff as a coach under Del Rice and would manage the Angels for 1973 and part of 1974 when Winkles was fired in June.
Winkles would later manage Oakland for portions of the 1977 and 1978 seasons. coach for the White Sox,  lead the player development department for the Expos and serve as English color analyst on the Expo radio network.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox: More Passings

We continue with tributes to those that have recently passed with one that was surprisingly around our house for years with his work and voice.

Goodbye to Howard Finkel at the age of 69.
"THIS NEXT Match is for the WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIP"!
The booming voice that represented the-then WWF looked like the man that would be in charge of your utility bill, but for the everyday looks of the smallish and balding Howard Finkel, the voice of Finkel was as memorable to so many of the fans of the promotion as the grapplers in the ring.
Finkel certainly deserves the title of the best ring announcer in the history of wrestling and even ranks with the best to hold the mike in boxing as well.
Finkel was able to exude such drama and anticipation in his introduction and as he would name the winner of a battle that throughout the average card, a dramatic announcement by Finkel could often be the best-remembered portion of an evening.
Finkel was hired as the first-ever employee of the then-WWWF in 1975 and would take command of the lowering mike from the ceiling of Madison Square Garden in 1977.
Since almost all the title changes occurred in New York City, it was the voice of Howard Finkel that would be heard with the announcement of the new champion, when the title change would be televised on delay on the WWF's syndicated weekly programming.
Finkel began to announce almost all the WWF television programs in 1984 and kept that pace until 2000 when his schedule was divided among others.
By 2006, Finkel only made occasional appearances on special occasions, although he was employed by the company until his passing.

Howard Finkel's announcements were often standard through the years as his introductions were often copied at our house through the years.
Some of my best memories with Ryan when he was little, was shouting out "THIS NEXT MATCH, etc" and waiting a few seconds for this little fellow to come running out of his room or the living room to "attack" the bad guy with punches and moves that would send me bouncing around, bumping off beds, couches, and everything that I needed to make him have a good time.
I was not only younger then, but smaller too, so I was able to keep things moving pretty well against my "opponent", who almost always won in the end unless the dastardly bad guy hooked his foot on the couch for "leverage" for a temporary win.
I always smile thinking about those times with Ryan, which included one time that saw our hero wind up and knock the villain into the air and land on a bed- which promptly broke the endboard and resulted in the wrestlers coming together to get the bed out of the apartment before the "commissioner" got home for trouble that went beyond grappling!


Goodbye to Brian Dennehy at the age of 81.
Dennehy was known for playing tough guys in films and television and while the role that I've seen many remember him for was as Chris Farley's father in "Tommy Boy", I'll always remember his work as the first man to screw with "John Rambo" in "First Blood", which was the first and best film in the Rambo series.
Dennehy brought depth to "Sheriff Will Teasle" as the small-town Oregon lawman that decided to mess with what he thought was just another drifter and discovered that he was far over his head.
Still, you could feel Teasle's belief that he was only protecting his town from troublemakers crossing through in the early stages of the film and the anger-filled revenge hunt for Rambo after the accident that killed a deputy.
You could feel the rage in his voice as he grabbed a young David Caruso as another deputy and screamed "That's Art Galt, boy, we were friends when your momma was still wiping your nose!
Now he's dead and I'm going to pin that Medal of Honor to his (Rambo's) liver!"
And the relief when Rambo could have killed him and didn't or his arrogance when he believed Rambo had been blown up in a mine and the eventual acceptance that he was helpless against the dynamo that was destroying his town and was coming for him.
Brilliant and even though the stars of the film were Sylvester Stallone and Richard Crenna (In the European release of First Blood, it was Crenna with top billing), in my opinion, it's Brian Dennehy that stole the film.
Sports fans might remember Dennehy's attempt at portraying Bob Knight in the first of the few ESPN attempts to make sports movies.
Knight has to be a hard person to get right and Dennehy didn't quite get it, although he came closer than Tom Berenger did in his attempt to be Bear Bryant.


Goodbye to Doug Sanders at the age of 86.
The "Peacock of the Fairways", Sanders won twenty events on the PGA Tour but never won a major despite finishing in second place in four major tournaments.
Sanders is most remembered for his 1970 British Open loss to Jack Nicklaus, where he led entering the final hole but took four shots from inside 80 feet to finish the hole including a three-foot miss that would have clinched the win.
Nicklaus would defeat Sanders by one stroke in the following day's eighteen-hole playoff.
Sanders also is remembered fondly for his loud clothing on the course and Sanders made the claim that the lead character in the Dan Jenkins book Dead Solid Perfect is based on him.
HBO made a film based on the book with Randy Quaid in the lead role (Sanders) in 1988, which is hard to find currently and ranks with the best and better-known golf films.


Goodbye to Tom Webster at the age of 71.
Webster coached the Kings and Rangers in the 80s and 90s and was one of the better players in the World Hockey Association's history.
Webster played six years for the then New England Whalers and scored 220 goals for the green and white, but would play only one game in the NHL after the merger for Detroit.




Friday, April 17, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox: Football Passings

During a crisis of health as we are going through now as a country, there will be more passings than usual and unfortunately, there have been enough from the football world only to carry their own post.

Goodbye to Timmy Brown at the age of 82.
The original Tim Brown was likely the best Eagle of the 1960s as Brown was not only the Eagles' best running back of the era, he also ranked with the best kick returners in the game.
Brown was the first player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game for the Eagles in a 1966 upset of the Dallas Cowboys and made Pro Bowls in 1962, 1963, and 1965 for Philadelphia as a running back.
Brown was drafted by the Packers in 1959 but was released after one game.
Imagine the dimension that Brown could have brought to the Lombardi Packers!
After Brown finished his career in 1968 for the NFL champion Baltimore Colts, Brown moved into acting and was one of two actors in the movie and series based on M*A*S*H.
Brown played two different roles in the film and series but was released from the series from his role as "Spearchucker Jones" after one season when the decision-makers realized that in the actual Korean War there weren't any African-American doctors that served in the military.


Goodbye to Pete Retzlaff at the age of 88.
The Eagles top runner of the decade of the 60s was Timmy Brown, but their best pass-catching threat may have been Pete Retzlaff, although Tommy McDonald may have had something to say about that honor.
Retzlaff started his career at wide receiver in 1956 for Philadelphia before moving to tight end in 1963 for the final four years of his career, which were all spent with the Eagles.
Retzlaff, like Timmy Brown, played for the 1960 World Champion Eagles, which was the only team to defeat a Vince Lombardi squad in a championship game.
Retzlaff made five Pro Bowls, three of those in his four seasons as a tight end and Retzlaff's 1965 season is a season that would stack well today in the passing age, so imagine these numbers in 1965-  66 catches, 1,190 yards, and ten touchdowns.
Very strong numbers for an Eagles team that finished 5-9 in 1965.
Retzlaff retired after the 1966 season, but was back in 1969 as the general manager, but was a failure as GM as Philadelphia finished 4-9-1, 3-10-1, 6-7-1 and 2-11-1 with some of the worst teams in franchise history to go with using first-round draft picks on Leroy Keyes, Steve Zabel, Richard Harris, and John Reaves.
Keyes suffered a career-altering knee injury that likely cost him a good NFL career and Reaves was a solid USFL passer, but not an NFL starter and Zabel and Harris may have been slightly better picks than Steve Sabol of NFL Films fame and the actor that sung "Macarthur Park".


Goodbye to Willie Davis at the age of 85.
Davis spent two seasons with the Browns before Cleveland traded him to the Packers in 1960.
Davis would slot in as the best pass rusher of the Lombardi era in Green Bay, playing on all five world champions under Lombardi and making five Pro Bowls during his career.
Davis was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981 and is one of those pass rushers that may still be holding records had the NFL kept statistics for sacks in his playing era.
Davis was very successful in business following his retirement in owning several radio stations and sitting on the board of directors for some very large corporations.
Davis is the father of actor Duane Davis, who seemed to show up in every sports movie of the late 80s and throughout the 90s and his grandson is Ohio State All-American guard Wyatt Davis, who could be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.


Goodbye to Bobby Mitchell at the age of 84.
Mitchell spent his first four seasons in Cleveland (Boy, the Browns fared really well in this post) as the halfback in the Browns backfield with Jim Brown.
When the Browns and their new owner Art Modell decided that they had to have 1961 Heisman winner Ernie Davis, who would tragically pass away and never play in a professional game, the price for Davis was Mitchell, who broke the color line for the Washington Redskins.
Washington would move Mitchell to flanker and Mitchell would go well over one thousand yards in his first two seasons.
Mitchell would not finish with fewer than 866 receiving yards or less than 58 receptions until his final season in 1967.
Mitchell made three Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Mitchell was well-known to fans that never saw him play as he was a regular panelist for years on the various local Redskin-related programs.


Goodbye to Tom Dempsey at the age of 73.
Dempsey is most remembered for his 63-yard field goal in 1970 that set an NFL record for the longest field goal that gave the New Orleans Saints an upset win at the gun over the Detroit Lions.
The Dempsey record was tied a few times before being broken by one yard by Matt Prater in 2013 in Denver, where the altitude could have assisted the kick.
Dempsey's record for the longest field goal for non-altitude remains with David Akers and Graham Gano making their 63 yarders outside of Denver.
Dempsey was born without any toes on his kicking foot (right) or any fingers on his right hand and his kicking shoe looked more like a stubbed brick than a traditional kicking shoe.
Dempsey was a straight-on kicker, which was slowly going away in favor of the soccer-style kickers and suffered from accuracy issues.
Dempsey made one Pro Bowl, which was for the Saints as a rookie in 1969, and while most remember Dempsey as a Saint, I've always thought him as a member of his next two teams in the Eagles and Rams (Dempsey would also kick for the Oilers and Bills).
I remember Dempsey's reaction as an Eagle after missing a short field goal that would have beaten Buffalo in 1973 on an NFL Game of the Week and I'll remember his kick in the 1976 NFC championship that was blocked by Nate Allen and taken the distance by Bobby Bryant for a Viking touchdown that swung momentum toward Minnesota in a 24-13 win.


Goodbye to Tavaris Jackson at the age of 36.
Jackson played for the Vikings, had two stints with the Seahawks, and the Bills before his retirement after the 2015 season following the Seahawks loss in the Super Bowl to New England.
Jackson was Minnesota's second-rounder in 2006 and started twenty games for the Vikings from 2006-2010, twelve of those coming as the starter in 2007.
Jackson signed as the starter for the Seahawks in 2011, but Jackson threw only 14 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and was replaced for the following year by rookie Russell Wilson.
Jackson was on the Bills roster in 2012 but did not appear in any games before returning to Seattle as Wilson's backup for the final three seasons of his career.
Upon his passing, Jackson was the quarterbacks' coach at 1-AA Tennessee State.






Thursday, April 16, 2020

Browns new uniforms-Correcting the mistake

Photo: Cleveland Browns
 The nightmare of awful uniforms is   over for fans of the Cleveland 
 Browns, who might have finally gotten something right under the stewardship of Jimmy and Dee  Haslam.

The return to the traditional uniforms seems to be mostly welcomed by Browns fans, other than a few that have said "they are the same as before", which is the point of the whole thing.

The Cleveland Browns are a franchise built on tradition and even though almost all that tradition was earned by the stolen team that resides in Baltimore and their claim to these Browns are only notations in the team media guide, it's still cheered on by a fanbase that wants its team to look similar to those champions and perennial playoff teams from the past.

Almost all of the most popular teams are usually winning teams, but most of those teams have uniforms and helmets that are similar to the ones they used 50 and 60 years ago.
Teams such as Green Bay, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Oakland sell lots of merchandise and they don't look very different than they did then, yet they still sell plenty.
Every year, teams think they know what the fans will like more than the fans themselves and give them some of the worst looking uniforms you could imagine and many times those "fresh and new" uniforms last the required five years and get thrown away in favor of classic styles.

Many times, new owners want to put their "stamp" on teams and shove something down the fans throat that they don't want with the stamp only reminding fans of the ownership's disastrous idea.
The classic look (or close to it) is what is usually wanted and the Browns did an excellent job in returning to the traditional togs.
Buffalo has beautiful uniforms after returning to their classic blue from a two-tone navy blue jersey and the Browns have followed.
There are several teams that I'd like to see a return to an older version with the Broncos, Cardinals, and Eagles at the top of the list, but for now, it's good to see the Browns off that list!

They aren't perfect though as I'd still like to see orange pants used with the brown jersey at least and the minor changes to the "color rush" uniforms aren't quite as nice as the previous version, but they aren't enough to get angry about considering the upgrade with the home and road uniforms.
They could use a little more orange as I mentioned, but I don't like the idea of the early 2000s orange jerseys making a return.

All things considered, I'm very happy with the uniforms and for all the decisions that the Haslams have screwed up since buying the Browns, I think they read the tea leaves correctly this time and made the right decision to correct their previous mistake.
Dee Haslam claimed during the process that they had a grasp on what the fans wanted this time (which raises the question of why did they make the change the first time without knowing what they wanted.)  and that the team was listening.
Now hopefully with their historic uniforms back in place, the Browns can work on returning the winning tradition that those uniforms have stood for.









Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Catching the bug.

Finally, a few weeks into quarantine the sports bug is back as far as watching goes with a few events from the past.

Between DVD's and YouTube, there are tons of great events available to watch, it was just a matter of wanting to watch.

I completed the 1986 Masters today with Jack Nicklaus coming from off the pace for the surprise victory at 46 and I'm currently watching the opening game of the USFL as the Chicago Blitz travel to Washington for the return of George Allen to town against the Federals.
Later tonight could be some basketball or maybe even boxing as I'm going to rewatch what may be the best fight that I have ever watched and that could be my next post.

It's funny about classic sports when you rewatch them- it's not as much about the actual performance of the athletes, but the memories that return of you looking back at the person that watched that particular event.
That's not always the case because in some cases I might not have seen it before or if I did, I may not have remembered where I was watching, but often the fun in watching is the story-telling of viewing the first time.

I've tried to find a mix between events that I have personal memories and ones that perhaps I don't and would be fun to watch on a different level.
I'll be back from the work office tonight with either an inbox cleaning or a tributes edition.


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Staying home

I'm not supposed to be here.
I'm not supposed to be at the road office and I'm damn sure not supposed to be bummed out about the state of baseball, the minors to be specific, and our country in general.

I'm supposed to be hanging out with my buddies after a day of baseball in Myrtle Beach and Charleston with three days to go in the official kickoff to the end of the downtime-I.E- Non-Baseball season and instead I'm sitting at work, bored, depressed, and generally discouraged about more than missing a trip.

Reality has set in and it looks to me that we will not have minor league baseball or live in-person baseball at all this season.
While this means more money for other things and less time spent on the road, the loss is the time with my friends and around the game that you can't get back.

And the final irony is this- I'm not sure what things will be like when baseball does come back.
A sport that even before Covid-19 that was in the middle of a campaign to lessen their player's contact with its fans will likely use Covid-19 as an excuse to go even further in moving their stars away.
Covid-19 makes sense for the time being to be very safe, but I have the feeling that things have changed for good with the players.
Place aside the drawn royal flush for Rob Manfred to get away with his planned demolition of the minors and think of this- Imagine a baseball world without players interacting with season ticket holders, autograph collectors, franchises not wanting their players to stay with host families, and players being separated by netting for now (I'm convinced that eventually the netting around the field will be changed to fiberglass similar to hockey) for a different fan experience at whatever level you watch baseball at.

I'm already trying to plan a summer without baseball and it's likely to be a summer without traveling as well.
That's unfortunate because I'd be more than willing to travel without baseball, but unless I'm surprised, it appears to be a local-bound summer.
While I'm struggling with so many things that we all are dealing with right now, I'm finding things to do, still have that metal detector to use, and playing a lot of games, which I'll update later this week.

While I'm disappointed about my summer travels going down the drain, I'm even dismayed about the current state of the political discourse.
I see so many people on the left and the right each thinking that the other controls the country that it's sad to see a lack of common ground.
Left-leaning people that won't vote for Joe Biden because their guy (Bernie Sanders) lost and there is no difference between Biden and the President and the right side of the crowd believing that Biden is no different than Sanders is both ridiculous and a non-starter.
It's saddening to see our country so splintered and unwilling to work together even on the most important topics, although the first stimulus did show some cooperation for a need that even the most fervent partisan couldn't be against.
I'll be very interested in seeing if this can be repeated for the next wave of stimulus packages, which is almost surely going to be repeated in the summer- if not exceeded.

I've been critical of the President and feel that my initial assessment of his character has proven to be correct, but I'm not rooting against him right now as so many are.
I'd much rather see the same folks put their energy into defeating him in a fair election in November rather than root for him to fail currently.
I've never understood the saying "not my President".
Win or lose, the winner is our President for four years and while we don't have to agree with policies, we should hope for the best.

Today's not a great day considering what I'd rather be doing, but there are so many people around that are far worse than me and my family are and it's hard to be too whiny when you think of others.
Here is hoping that that 2021 is much better than 2020 because the standard doesn't seem to be too hard to match.






Saturday, April 11, 2020

This was the XFL...

Yet another victim was claimed by Covid-19 as the XFL announced the
suspension of their operations and their lack of plans for 2021.

The XFL didn't do poorly at the gate and even though their television ratings slid from their opening week, I believe that had the perfect scenario not occurred with Covid-19, the league would have returned for the second season and then who knows what could have happened.

I really enjoyed the XFL as I did the AAF and I'm sad to see the XFL go because I still think there is a market for spring football.
However, I'm at a loss on how best to present the product.
Both the XFL and AAF struggled with quarterback play and when the quarterbacks struggle, fans don't always stick with the product.
If you are going to be what is in effect a minor league, the casual fan doesn't seem interested and only wants to compare the league to the NFL.
That's a dumb reason because college football isn't the NFL either and it's plenty popular.

The USFL had some very good quarterback play with two eventual Hall of Famers in Steve Young and Jim Kelly, but that avenue has its problems as well.
Going after star players means you are stepping on the NFL's toes and having to pay to land those players.
Paying big money means even larger losses as you attempt to get the league off the ground and almost every new league professes a business plan and plenty of cash to offset the initial losses.
That lasts until the losses start coming in and that's followed by panic.

The WLAF tried in the spring with NFL backing and it too failed, although there were some successes with a few of the European teams.
The NFL's problem in these matters seems to come down to this- They would like to see a league like the WLAF (or the AAF, who they came close to an agreement with) be available for training and developmental purposes, but the teams are then skittish about potential injuries.
That concern alone would likely see only undrafted free agents allocated to a league and almost certainly not a quarterback with questions about the also developmental status of offensive lines in such a league.

Vince McMahon tried going gimmicky with XFL 1 and more football-based with XFL 2 and neither succeeded, although I'm going speculate that the reasons that the XFL isn't back for a second season are the losses from Covid-related cancellations and the recent huge tumble in WWE stock may have combined to make McMahon hesitant to continue with the venture.

I don't have an answer for what would work for spring football, but I wonder why these investors/owners start leagues/buy franchises if they don't have the stomach for early losses.
Any new venture in sports is going to lose money and lots of it- if you can't afford to lose money for years and one would think that you would know that before even considering getting into sports, why would you throw your money away knowing you are (no pun intended) out of your league.

In the end, it's another failed team to add to the graveyard of teams with the Kentucky Colonels, Cleveland Crusaders, Southern California Sun, Chicago Blitz, Arizona Wranglers, Memphis Showboats, San Francisco Demons, Arizona Hotshots and now the D.C. Defenders.
R.I.P.