36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

April 29, 2012

The remainder of the Browns’ draft

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 3:37 am

I’m not sure what to think of Tom Heckert as a drafter. He seems to get fixated on certain guys and takes them whenever he can get them, which means that he’ll get slammed a lot for reaches. That strategy can work great in Madden if you’ve scouted somebody nobody else has, but a couple of his picks are head scratchers. Coverage of the first round is here.

Second round:

Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Cal — This is one of those weird reaches. He’s played right tackle before (which is where he’ll play with the Browns), but he doesn’t seem to have the raw talent of Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin, two guys taken after him. He’s supposed to be NFL-ready now, and he’ll get the job at RT. It’s not a terrible move, but why not take players with more talent if they’re available?

Third round:

John Hughes, DT, Cincinnati – If the second round pick was out of left field, this one comes from Mars. Absolutely NOBODY else had this guy on their boards. At all. He’s strictly a rotational guy, and the scouting report from NFL.com says things like “lazy” and “poor effort.” He’s a decent run stopper. That’s about it.

Fourth round:

Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami — Everybody insisted the Browns needed speed at wideout — Benjamin was the fastest player at the combine (4.36 40 yard dash). He’s tiny (5’10″,  172 lbs) and apparently gets miffed easily by press coverage. Has some return ability, which is always nice.

James-Michael Jones, ILB, Nevada — A great run stopping linebacker, with good fundamentals and a great tackler. Not a ball-hawk, but he could be a starter someday. He played inside and outside, and there’s always the certainty chance that D’Qwell Jackson gets hurt.

Fifth round:

Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado – He’s huge. 6’7″, 321 lbs. A very solid guard that some teams apparently wanted to move out to tackle since he’s, you know, huge. Might have some technique concerns, but he’s a fifth round pick, will probably just be a backup and maybe be the guy that gets stuff down from the top shelf.

Sixth round: 

Emmanuel Acho, OLB, Texas – A very good pass rusher, but has a lot of difficulties in things like pass coverage. Probably a purely situational guy, but the Browns aren’t overflowing with pass rushers.

Billy Winn, DT, Boise State – Extremely talented player with character concerns. A little small for a DT (under 300 lbs), but tall (6’4″). Technique concerns and lack of effort caused him to slide.

Seventh round:

Trevin Wade, DB, Arizona – See Winn above, only he’s a DB and a much bigger jerk. Did very well his sophomore season, stunk the junior year, and was okay his senior year. If he can control his attitude, he could be a very good one.

Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama — Heh heh heh heh. His name is Smelley. Other than that, I know bupkis. He’s apparently a reasonably decent #2 guy.

That’s the entirety of the Browns’ draft. A lot of places give the Browns a “B” grade; I’m okay with that, sort of. They “filled” most of our needs, in that they got warm bodies who wear the right uniform number. Hughes still baffles me, and I like the idea of an uber-fast wideout, but we really needed somebody with more overall ability. Schwartz is an example of drafting for need over best player available; I like the idea and the player, just not where we took him. A couple of character guys here too. Overall, the Browns got three Day-1 starters (assuming Weeden gets the job on day one), good depth at defensive tackle and linebacker, and a freakin’ huge guard. The only skill player I’m unreservedly excited about is Trent Richardson. The only player I’m unreservedly angry about is Hughes. (Fun fact: he was second to last among all DTs who were graded! And we took him in the third round!)

I think it’s clear Weeden will make or break this draft for a lot of people, and I’m one of them. I think Tom Brady would have had a losing record with last years’ supporting cast, with only one legitimate NFL wide receiver in Greg Little and a running game that makes grown men cry (in the bad way). Richardson should fix the latter, and our offensive line is better. Maybe Weeden is Kurt Warner 2.0; maybe he’s Chris Wenke. He has talent, unlike Wenke, but he never bagged groceries (that I know of), so obviously I can’t tell if he’s the next Warner.

I’m going to give the Browns entire draft, at the moment, a C++. If The Walrus gets over his bromance with Seneca Wallace, who’s apparently a dick and refused to help Colt transition last year (unless he was honest and told Colt, “Dude, I have no idea what I’m doing either. Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe better!), I’ll feel better about the season.

April 26, 2012

Browns draft (thus far)

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 11:06 pm

The Browns made two picks in the first round. Cleveland traded some later round picks to go from #4 to #3; given that we got Trent Richardson out of the deal and lost only a 4th, 5th, and 7th round pick, I’m totally okay with that. Given one of the categories for this post — RTFBS, or Run the Fuckin’ Ball, Stupid — I’m delighted that we received the only true every down back in the draft. There is a small part of me that says “Tony, you know the Browns needed a right tackle, and Matt Kalil would have been dynamite.” Still, running backs that touch the ball 25-30 times a game don’t grow on trees, and so I give the Browns a thumbs up on that pick.

I’m a little more concerned about the second pick, QB Brandon Weedon. He’s 28, or about two years younger than I am. He’s immensely talented from a drop back and pass standpoint, although he’s supposedly “meh” outside the pocket. That’s fine. So why aren’t I more excited? Simple: Colt McCoy.

I’ve defended McCoy a number of times on this blog. I think he’s a product of bad circumstances, not a bad QB, and there is a difference. McCoy isn’t Tom Brady or Peyton Manning; he is also not Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson (minus 2007). I think he can still be a very competent starter. He’s no “franchise QB”, but he is extremely competent, and it still kind of bothers me that the Browns have given up on him so quickly.

I also really wanted to see the Browns get an elite WR or OT in the first round. Riley Reiff would have been a tremendous choice. I like the guard that fell to Pittsburgh, too. A couple of picks earlier, Kendall Wright was available. I understand there are plenty of superb options for both in the second round, and maybe that’s true. I admit I’m not quite as knowledgeable about college ball as I was in the past, and apart from the first round, I’ve not examined many mock drafts.

Weedon may very easily defeat Colt McCoy in training camp. This may even end up good for Colt; he was forced to start before he was ready, and he’ll get a little bit of seasoning behind Weedon. Weedon may totally surprise me, start for 10 years, and give the Browns a Super Bowl. I’m just hesitant to sign off on the pick now (not that I need to, since I don’t work for the Browns.) I also think he would have been available in the second round

So, thus far: Richardson, A+ — Weedon, C+ (possibly as high as B+ depending on his performance).

March 12, 2012

Browns go for Mike Wallace?

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 2:03 pm

There was an interesting article on Grantland that recaps the repercussions of the Rams-Redskins draft trade.

Bill Barnwell says that, of all the teams looking for a new QB, he thinks the Browns are in the worst position. He’s probably right. SF is out of contention for Manning after signing Alex Smith for a three year deal (note: I never thought Manning was a good fit anyway), and it seems to be between Arizona and Denver, at the moment, for Manning. Matt Flynn will probably go to Miami. This leaves the Browns with the #4 overall pick but no really great QB to choose from. Barnwell’s solution? The Browns claim Mike Wallace and give the #4 pick to Pittsburgh.

It’s an intriguing notion, I must admit. Mike Wallace is a very capable receiver, there’s no question about that. However, I can’t help but think that going after Wallace, for the #4 pick, seems risky. He’d make Colt McCoy or whoever ends up as the QB when all is said and done better. But would he sign with Cleveland for the long haul? That’s the better question. A #4 pick for one year of Mike Wallace seems kind of silly. If it comes packaged with a reasonable contract extension, I like the move; if it doesn’t I don’t.

Other players that the Browns might go for at #4 include T Matt Kalil (if he’s available), RB Trent Richardson, or going defense again. The Browns need a capable running back, and even if they resign Peyton Hillis, there’s no evidence that’s a good long term move. I like the idea of an RB at #4, but I’m not sure how good Richardson, or if he’s worthy of the pick. If we have to take a player with #4, I’d rather see them take Kalil and fix the right tackle hole.

At this stage? I’d actually like to see the Browns trade down. Stockpile quality picks, turn them into players. The Browns will not make the playoffs with or without Mike Wallace next year. The Browns have a lot of holes still — not as many as we did before Holmgren and Heckert, but still plenty. I am perfectly fine with the following positions: LT, C, one DE, DT, MLB, and one CB. I’d even accept Greg Little if he fixes the drop issues. That still leaves other positions that need a lot of improvement. The defense could use some more quality players — another CB certainly, a pass rusher probably — but going defense again will probably make a lot of people mad. So we trade down. Let’s get some value. Take a couple of offensive players in round one — ideally a T and an RB. Use the second round to find some capable receivers. Future rounds for depth, maybe some more defensive players. Above all, put us in position to evaluate Colt McCoy for one full season with some better talent. Let’s find out if McCoy is part of the problem or part of the future solution.

That’s what I would do, in any case.


November 13, 2011

The secret to the passing game’s (lack of) success

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 4:15 am

Read an interesting article from the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. When I saw bullet point #1 and #3, I said “Ah hah! That explains a lot!” Those bullet points?

1. Guess which NFL team leads the league with 23 dropped passes? Yes, it’s your Cleveland Browns.

3. But 23 drops is four more than any other team — Miami and Chicago are next with 19. In a West Coast offense where the accent is on yards after catch (YAC), you need to catch it first.

The Browns now have an excuse for ignoring RTFBS, since the best RB on the team is hurt, the second best is also hurt, and the third best has been on the IR since the preseason. Still, Peyton Hillis was barely used even when healthy, and that’s why Colt McCoy has had to try so hard to pass.

Who is to blame? Well, Colt doesn’t throw to his TEs very much. Evan Moore has a 71% catch rate; Ben Watson has a 53% catch rate, which is less impressive. But he would still be the second best receiver on the team! Greg Little and Josh Cribbs are just over 50% ; MoMass is just under 50%.

That’s pitiful. You may say, “But Penguatroll, Larry Fitzgerald has a 48% catch rate!” I reply, “And he’s still better than every Cleveland receiver combined.”

Before we use eight games to say “Colt McCoy is the worst Cleveland QB evar!!!!!!!” I remind you of three things: 1) He’s still very young, 2) Jake Delhomme, 3) Derek Anderson (except 2007). With some decent talent around him? I’m not saying he’s Drew Brees, or even Drew Bledsoe. But he’s far better than Drew Henson.

November 11, 2011

Smart football indeed!

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 5:38 pm

I originally went to Grantland.com because, like many Americans, I think Bill Simmons is funny. But thanks to his website, I’ve discovered a gem of an article (and site, really, because Chris Brown knows his stuff).

Terry Pluto  (Browns writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer) has made a lot of comparisons between Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. What he’s never done is explain why Smith has been so successful this year, and not in the past. Only mention that they’re vaguely similar, physically and athletically, and both pretty smart and “winners” in college football.

Chris Brown’s analysis, on the other hand, is brilliant. Peyton Manning adjusts receiver routes all the time (or he did before he got hurt). He can do this because A) he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the history of football and B) he’s worked with the same receivers for a long time. But “sight adjustments” rely a lot on mind reading between a QB and WR. So what did Jim Harbaugh do?

Got rid of them.

Like anybody who’s ever played Madden, the best plays have escape hatches in case your downfield route goes wrong (and it probably will). Without calling for hot routes or any of that, these let you get out of a bad play with a positive gain. That’s what Harbaugh did. Build even downfield plays with routes in case the QB needs to make a quick decision.

His video is awesome, and explains it perfectly. I recommend Smart Football to anybody who is smart and likes football (which anybody who reads this site probably is).

PS: I swear, I will finish my series of Madden draft and player analysis. I’ve just been really busy.

November 5, 2011

Hopefully the end of the Hillis saga

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 1:54 pm

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Madden cover curse, only for Peyton Hillis, it’s affected his brain. The Browns, apparently, are done. The reporter suggests Hillis might get cut this season, which would be great news for Montarrio Hardesty if he weren’t also injured. Our third string running back didn’t make it out of camp (Brandon Jackson), so our running backs are pretty thin.

I’ve tried to defend Hillis on this site and in conversations with friends. It just can’t be done any longer. Instead of rehabbing, he flew back to Arkansas and got married. Mazel tov and all that, but still, that’s an incredibly short sighted decision. I’ve also heard, although can’t/am too lazy to confirm, that it was a shotgun wedding anyway.

There seems to be some sort of allergy to drafting running backs high in the draft in Cleveland; at least we tried (kind of) with highly drafted QBs. We’ve tried a number of stop gaps since early 2001, some of whom worked well (Jamal Lewis, Reuben Droughns), some of whom didn’t (William Green, Lee Suggs). The only one drafted in the first round was Green, whose off-the-field shenanigans derailed a possibly promising NFL career.

I’m not ready to write off Colt McCoy yet, because he’s in the same situation Tim Couch was years ago; good QB, bad supporting cast. Colt has to win or lose each game by himself, which he’s just not capable of doing by himself.

Peyton Hillis was a wonderful pickup for the Browns, an unexpected treat salvaged out of a bad situation. The Browns have a good-to-great defense right now; let’s work on the offense in this next draft, shall we?

October 26, 2011

Hopefully the end of the Hillis saga

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 11:48 pm

Oh Peyton. Why couldn’t you have just said this weeks ago?

Each day, I begin to think it’s entirely the media and his agent that stirred up this shitstorm in the first place. If he said this during training camp, this would not have been a nagging issue all season.

Maybe with this behind the Browns, I can look forward to our offense trying some of these touchdowns I’ve heard so much about. I hear they’re worth two field goals, and you can even get a bonus point! What a crazy, mixed up world we live in.

October 21, 2011

How to build a quality team in Madden NFL 12 (2 of 8): Running backs

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 11:28 pm

So, you’ve got your quarterback. Now what?

The second component to an effective offensive attack is the running game. I’ve often argued that Madden is about three things — passing, running, and defense — and that you can really only get two of them right consistently. There will be games where the AI says “Nuh uh! No passes today!” or “Every tipped pass by your defense is a touchdown for the other team!” or “Watch a 160 lb cornerback tackle get a big hit on the running back for a fumble!” The most predictable part of your offense, and the most consistent from game to game, is your running game. Even a great QB will have bad or mediocre days. This is less true for great running back (although there will still be 8-men-in-the-box style games).

There are three main types of running back; like a quarterback, you should tailor your running game to your running back. I’ll also discuss fullbacks, because they don’t get nearly enough love.

Halfback — If the QB is the upper limit to your offense, the HB is your lower limit. Now, most of your running game depends on your offensive line, in all fairness, and we’ll get to that in two posts, but there are still things to worry about with each type of running back.

Power backs are slow but strong (80+ strength, 90- speed. They’ll give you two to three yards at minimum and six to seven yards at maximum, with an occasional ten or fifteen yard run just to blow your mind. Example: Peyton Hillis, Jerome Bettis, Jamal Lewis (Browns years), Brandon Jacobs.

The benefit of brute strength is that you, the player, have very little need to make fancy moves. You won’t get big runs without great blocking, but you’ll still get your fair share with or without offensive line play. You’ll be mostly running dives, slams, and other runs straight up the gut, with the occasional counter or misdirection to keep defenses honest. If it’s a good back, you can get at least ten years out of him before he’ll be so slow that no amount of strength will matter.

Availability: If you can’t find a bruising power back in the draft, I recommend you try another video game.The bigger the back, the more like he is to be a power back.

Scat backs (which sounds vaguely obscene) are all speed and no strength. You might get a 50 yard run or a 10 yard loss. Example: Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Willie Parker, Ray Rice

Speed is all about explosiveness, and that’s what these backs will give you. They tend to be good at catching passes too, so a screen or flat can help them get the ball with a little bit of space. You’re much more dependent on slick moves and/or line play; they’ll be all but useless without a great line. However, even with a small number of touches, they can surprise you. Rely on sweeps, tosses, misdirection plays, anything to avoid tackles. They also tend to be bad at holding on to the ball, and are sometimes really fragile. They’ll age poorly, but you can get premier talent for those few years.

Availability: Ditto power backs, just pick short and light guys.

Elite backs have great speed and strength, and are among the rarest of all players in Madden NFL 12. These have 90+ speed and 80+ strength. They’ve got moves, power, everything. Examples: Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, nearly every awesome back you can think of.

The strategy is going to be mostly that of the power back, but with the occasional pitch or outside run to take advantage of speed. They might or not might be good pass catchers; it’s not terribly relevant, though. If they can do it, find four or five touches a game that way; if not, don’t.They’ll age well, but will morph into being pure power backs, since speed always goes faster than strength.

Availability: This is really hard to pull off, because running backs can be found all over the place in the draft. All I can tell you is scout halfbacks the year you need one; it might be a first rounder or a fifth rounder. Watch for injury, in particular, since it’ll be the main difference between the elite back and a little faster power back.

Usage patterns

Avoid fumble prone backs like the plague if you can. The game specifically screws you on this; up 30 points and on first down? He’ll protect it with his life. Down 7, on the opponents’ 5 with a minute left? A stiff breeze will knock it out.

You are going to want three running backs. Even the healthiest of backs misses time; it’s the nature of the position. You can, with a lot of luck, hide a weak QB through efficient line play. A fragile HB can’t be hidden. The ultimate question is single back or committee. The answer depends, mostly, on your options at HB. Kevin has had success with two scat backs in a committee. I’ve used both power back/scat back and elite running back alone.

The critical stat is stamina, or how quickly a player is fatigued. Even a elite back, with low stamina, will need to be replaced frequently. I had this problem with a scat back of mine; my solution was to mostly use a power back to soften up the defense, then pull out the scat back for ten or so touches a game in key situations. Kevin does it by formation, which works against the AI but not against a human.

A natural committee is to use your best pass catcher as a third-down back; this adds an element of surprise to your game plan. The AI usually won’t cover a HB, and that means you can sneak it to him any number of times. He needs to be good enough to run occasionally, obviously, but not necessarily every time.

The important thing is to make sure you choose the best player at the best time, and no stat can tell you a definitive formula. I play with 8 minute quarters, so for me, most games are 50 to 60 offensive plays, or a little under the average NFL game. My Zen goal is the 50-50 balance; I rarely achieve it, but I always try. Usually, and in my current season, I run the half back 25 times a game, with 5 pass receptions. Some games I go nuts and pass 40 times, but for the most part I try to keep passing numbers low.

The misunderstood player: the fullback

It is something of a shame that the average NFL team rarely has a fullback. Some don’t even have one on the roster. With skill and planning, however, they can be an integral part of your offense.

There aren’t hard and fast numbers on good or bad fullbacks. You’ll never find a fast one (my next 85 speed fullback will be my first). Even in the most creative of offenses, you’re going to block with them 75% of the time or higher. But a fullback can do so much more.

If you’re running a scat back, the fullback is a godsend. He’s a poor man’s power back, and can help you rest the scat back while simultaneously throwing the AI off balance. He’ll get a lot of work at the goal line, as well he should.

The fullback is also an excellent goal line target; they often aren’t covered, and unless they’re absolutely horrid at pass catching (and some are), they’ll have a wide open touchdown. I also use my fullback as a third down pass receiver — in Split Back Formation, there’s a play called Texas, which puts the fullback on an angle route and the tight end on a streak; the linebacker can’t cover both, so it’s either a guaranteed first down for 6 or 7 yards or a guaranteed first down for 10 to 20. My three favorite formations are I-Formation, Split Back, and Shotgun — it’s no coincidence two of them feature fullbacks. I used to run mostly Singleback, but I’ve since learned the error of my ways.

All that matters for a fullback is potential. Get him 5 or 10 touches a game, and he’ll be a 90+ in no time. Make two or three of those touches touchdowns, and you’ll have a dangerous weapon in your offense.

The sneakiest thing to do with the fullback position, although it might hurt you in the long run, is putting a speedy TE there. The H-back, as he’s called, will completely screw with the opponent. Eventually they’ll bring in CB or safety blitzes, and that means big receptions for your receivers!

Next part: Wide receivers and tight ends.

October 13, 2011

Is Coach Shurmur reading this blog? The answer, of course, is yes

Filed under: RTFBS, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 1:14 pm

Perhaps Pat Shurmur killed his evil twin or alternate personality, but according to Pro Football Talk, Peyton Hillis is going to actually, you know, run the ball on Sunday. A welcome change.

October 4, 2011

Hey, wait a minute!

Filed under: RTFBS — Tony Demchak @ 12:29 am

I read this great article from Pro Football Talk. I loved the headline, too: “Pat Shurmur thinks that Hillis should get more touches.”

Of course! It’s a conspiracy! See, the guy calling the plays is keeping Hillis from getting the ball, not Pat Shurmur!

Hey… wait a minute! Pat Shurmur IS the guy calling the plays!

It makes perfect sense now… Pat Shurmur either has multiple personality disorder or a Jekyll and Hyde kind of thing. Only, instead of one personality being normal and the other being an axe murderer, both personalities are exactly the same, just one likes to run the ball and the other doesn’t. It’s like Woody Hayes and Mike Martz had a love child and each tormented him as he grew up. Granted, this is probably the least interesting case of multiple personality disorder ever, but it makes a twisted kind of sense.

Unlike having a QB pass 61 times.

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