Browns season in review (The Real One, this time)

In light of Kevin’s post about the Bills, I thought I’d write a few words about the 2-4 Cleveland Browns.

— We’ve only really been clobbered once this season, the opener against the Jets, which we lost by 21. We are a few lucky breaks from 5-1 (or conversely, 1-5). This gives me hope for the rest of the schedule. A lot will depend on Sunday’s game vs. the Rams; if we win there, we’ll have momentum going into a winnable game against Arizona to bring us back to .500. That’s the good news.

— The offense has been very solid, which I’m frankly shocked to say. We’ve scored at least 20 points in every game (except, again, the opener). I’ve gone from actively hating McCown to merely annoyed with him. He’s capable of making deep throw, and with some bigger wide receivers, we could really light some people up. Gary Barnidge is McCown’s best friend, Travis Benjamin reminds me of a Josh Cribbs who can actually catch the ball, and Duke Johnson has been very capable. We aren’t running the ball badly, but #22 in the league probably isn’t good enough. Crowell and Johnson are good backs; it’s just an issue of being behind in most games, which forces us to pass. 151 attempts over 6 games is less than 30 attempts per game, and consider that McCown and Manziel have combined for 17 carries. Picking up Robert Turbin seems like a stupid move to me; I don’t see what he can do that Crowell can’t. In my vision, Crowell would be the #1 back, with Johnson the change of pace guy.

— The defense… I will grant that Gipson and Haden have been hurt for a good chunk of the season. But it’s frankly sickening how bad the defense has been, especially against the run. What makes this fact so troubling is that Pettine is supposed to be a defense first guy. SI had a great article on the problems with Cleveland stopping the run. I love this quote, which sums up everything beautifully:

Simply put, the Browns are spending so much time figuring out ways to trick the offense, they’re leaving themselves little to no margin for error. If it means dropping linebacker Paul Kruger in coverage to fool Peyton Manning, despite the latter being a scheme-identifying genius, Cleveland will do it. In other words, the Browns are so worried about you figuring out their cards, they wind up putting certain players in the wrong position.

Add the injuries to Haden and Gipson, and it’s easy to see what’s going wrong. If Pettine can salvage a decent season, he might keep his job, or he could throw Jim O’Neil under the bus (and, admittedly, it might be more his fault than Pettine’s) to save his own skin. However, unless the Browns end the season fairly close to .500, there will almost certainly be a personnel change.

R Presentation Abstracts

Not too long ago, I talked about the talks I plan to give in 2016.  This post covers most of the talks I want to do, but there are three more that are on my list, all R-related.  There are some talks popping up at SQL Saturdays about R, and I think that’s awesome.  I want to get in on that bandwagon, too, and here are my contributions.  I’m definitely going to need to punch up the abstracts but this at least covers the core concepts.

  • R For the SQL Server Developer (beginner).  R is the premiere language for data analysis.  If the world of data science sounds fun and exciting, now is the time to get into R.  We will walk through the core constructs of R, learn how to retrieve data from flat files and databases, and get a peek at the power behind R.  This session will also give resources on where to go in order to become more familiar with statistics, R the language, and the R package ecosystem.
  • Data Analysis Using R And SQL Server (intermediate).  You know the basics of R but want to see exactly how powerful it can be.  This talk will walk through obtaining, modeling, and analyzing data from various sources and show off how we can incorporate R with SQL Server to turn data models and predicative analytics results into application reality.
  • R In SQL Server 2016 (beginner).  With its purchase of Revolution Analytics, Microsoft has jumped into the world of R.  This is already bearing fruit in SQL Server 2016, as we now have integrated support for running R code on your SQL Server.  This talk will walk through installation, configuration, and use of R on a server hosting SQL Server 2016, emphasizing the work database administrators will need to do for installation and maintenance.

Because most of my talks tend to be developer-centric, I really wanted to include that third talk and give database administrators some love.

Season 2 Madden 16 recap

Since I haven’t posted here in awhile, I thought I would share some notes from Season 2 of my Franchise in Madden 16.

— I went undefeated, mostly through beating teams into submission with my West Coast offense and Isaiah Crowell, who arguably had the greatest season of any running back in the history of running backs, destroying every record.

— Manziel got hurt about halfway through the season, so my rookie QB (that I took in the second round at the end of Season 1) got a chance to shine. Shine he did. Jeremy Clay has the “Superstar” development trait, which means the XP costs for everything are much lower. After half a season, he Pipped the shit out of Manziel, who only does one thing better than Clay (throw on the run/scramble). Clay is hardly slow, but it’s true he lacks the explosiveness of Manziel. Still, Manziel’s contract was up for Season 3, Buffalo offered me a second round pick during the preseason, and I took it without a second’s hesitation. (Now I wonder if I could have gotten more. Oh well.)

— I cannot overstate how awesome my offensive line is. I mean, it was almost embarrassing how often I ran for huge yards and how much time I got to throw. My rookie RT fit right in. He and Cameron Erving (who I play at RG) got holding penalties a little frequently for my taste, but I suppose I can let that slide, since he made the Pro Bowl his first year.

— Going to 12 minute quarters helped my defensive players get more stats, but they still couldn’t keep up in terms of tackles.

— Speaking of defense, most games turned into shootouts because all of my corners were relatively slow and could only break up pass plays by timing routes. Now, I usually won by four or more scores, but there was exactly one game that I can credit my defense for winning: the AFC Divisional game, when it was snowing, and we sacked Marcus Mariota like a dozen times and picked him off five times. It was glorious.

— With all this in mind, I entered the draft with a goal: more speed on defense. To that end, although I had scouted multiple players, I relied slightly more on combine results than actual skill, and as expected, I got wildly varying results. My first round pick was an amazing cornerback, Justin Blake, a physical specimen at 6’0 and 97 (!!) speed. He can’t tackle that well and his play recognition needs some work, but other than that, I’m extremely pleased with him. My second rounder, Antoine Hunter, is a pretty good defensive end and a strong pass rusher, but his awareness is awful. He hits hard but his tackle technique is bad. He’s a work in progress, but he has elite speed and good strength. Pick #3 was a strong safety, Delbert Bowers. Delbert’s greatest asset (apart from his name) is amazing speed (90). Other than that, he’s decent in zone coverage and hits hard, but again, is a bad tackler. Both Hunter and Bowers are in the high 60s (Blake is a 78). Rakim Dukes, my fourth rounder, was a 65 overall middle linebacker. Again, very fast (87), but unlike Hunter or Bowers, Dukes has some pretty decent technique, and is a good run stopper or pass rusher. He has fairly low awareness and bad play recognition and sucks in coverage, but hopefully with some development time, he’ll improve in the mental aspects and be a stud linebacker.

My fifth rounder was, easily, the steal of my draft, and proof that careful scouting pays off. He was another cornerback named Ben “Don’t Call Me Bob” Evans. He is a slightly slower (93 speed) version of Blake. He’s even worse at tackling and not quite as bright, overall, as Blake, but they’re both amazing. Evans is a 76 overall, and the second best player in my draft.

Then we get to the dregs. With my sixth rounder, I needed to grab a wide receiver, since I let both Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline walk (I later re-signed Bowe, discovered his speed was a glacial 78 now, and promptly bumped him down the depth chart). Tavarus Rosemund is fast (94 speed), but a stiff breeze will keep him from pushing off at the line, or catching the ball, or successfully running his route. His stiff arm rating is so low (< 40) that I’m pretty sure his arm would snap off if I tried it. He is an extreme work in progress, with an overall rating of 56. He might turn out, maybe, to be a good slot receiver, but I have my doubts about that too.

For Mr. Irrelevant, I went back to defense, and took Rodriguez Mack, an outside linebacker. He’s basically a much dumber version of Dukes, with even worse technique. He grades out as a 58. He’s not worthless on special teams, I guess.

Still, for my draft, I picked up two great CBs, one who’s my nickelback right now and the other who’s my #4 (Blake and Evans), three players who will end up starting in the near future (Hunter, Bowers, and Dukes), a new kick returner who might catch enough balls to be a threat some day (Rosemund), and a linebacker who exists (Mack). Bowers is probably going to start within the next year or so, as I did re-sign Donte Whitner, but he is also getting old. Hunter might get some playing time this season, depending on how my current ends work out. Karlos Dansby retired on me, but I signed a guy on a one year deal to back up Christian Kirksey. Dukes will start next year. That’s five potential starters out of seven. Not too shabby!

Most importantly, I re-signed Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio the split second after the pre-season was finished. I will back a literal dump truck full of money to Alex Mack’s house to get him to stay in Season 4. The longer I can keep this line together, the more Super Bowls I will win.