Browns QB picture remains muddy after first scrimmage

Published: Saturday, August 05, 2017 @ 12:45 PM

Browns quarterback Cody Kessler scrambles during an October 23, 2016 game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. He's competing for the starting job with Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer.
Getty Images
Browns quarterback Cody Kessler scrambles during an October 23, 2016 game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. He's competing for the starting job with Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer.(Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns held their first intra-squad scrimmage Friday night in Berea, and at least one report suggests that head coach Hue Jackson did not learn much about his quarterbacks to clear the picture in a four-man derby.

In 11 combined offensive possessions, the offense scored three field goals and no touchdowns. Brock Osweiler probably was the most successful signal caller as he triggered two field-goal drives in his four possessions. 

Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer did not manage any points, and Kevin Hogan -- considered a longshot by many -- completed all five of his passes but against second- and third-team defenders. That left Jackson to describe the quarterback situation as, “still really fluid,” according to ESPN.com.

Kizer missed a wide-open Duke Johnson on what would have been a 30-yard touchdown, prompting the Toledo native to say, "Oh my gosh, for him to be that wide open and me to miss is unacceptable."

The Bengals will play the Browns Oct. 1 in Cleveland, and again Nov. 26 in Paul Brown Stadium.

Report: Dwight Freeney to visit Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday

Published: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 @ 1:36 AM

With both of their starting defensive ends battling injuries, the Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to host veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney for a visit and physical on Tuesday.

Seattle desperately needs to bolster their pass rush with Cliff Avril on Injured Reserve for at least seven more games as he recovers from a severe neck injury he suffered in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts, and Michael Bennett battling a plantar fascia injury in his foot.

Freeney, who entered the league a first-round pick from Syracuse, spent the first 11 years of his NFL career (2002-2012) with the Indianapolis Colts, where he earned Pro Bowl honors seven times, All-Pro honors four times, and played a key role in the team’s run to the Super Bowl XLI title.

After leaving Indianapolis, Freeney played two seasons for the San Diego Chargers (2013-2014), one season for the Arizona Cardinals (2015), and in 15 games for the Atlanta Falcons in 2016.

With 122.5 career sacks Freeney is likely a shoe-in for eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Oklahoma football: Baker Mayfield proves pain is no issue in season-best performance

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 6:05 PM

NORMAN, Okla. — If Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield wasn’t healthy for the Kansas State game, the quarterback has a future in theater.

The nugget Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley threw out on Monday was Mayfield threw for 410 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns in the 42-35 victory last Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., despite missing most of practice the previous week due to a shoulder injury.

“I had the shoulder injury from the Texas game. I said it postgame then. A big guy landing on my shoulder cranked it back the wrong way. I went through some pain last week,” Mayfield added on Monday. “Those are the type of injuries that you just fight through. You’re not necessarily sidelined by it, it’s just something you have to go into the game and suck it up especially if you want to win.”

Mayfield threw the ball 41 times against the Wildcats, completing 32 passes. He also ran the ball 9 times for 69 yards. Both his passing and rushing yardage marks were season highs.

The Sooners expected Mayfield to play well, but there was the thought he would be more cautious considering the injury sustained the previous week. Yet, the quarterback didn’t do much sliding or running out of bounds.

“It was different, man. It was different,” offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. “Obviously, we all know Bake is an athlete, and normally, when he’s scrambling, he’s scrambling to throw, not so much to run for touchdowns. It’s just kind of been a minute since he’s approached it with that mentality, but man. As an offensive line, we were going to keep him clean this week, understanding what he was going through and whatever. Man. We didn’t expect that from him.”

The running decisions were a spur-of-the-moment deal. Mayfield scored a touchdown on a zone-read keeper. The rest seemed like scrambles or the quarterback spotting daylight and taking off.

“I think one thing that makes my game and leadership so special is I can feel the energy of our team. I felt it was what we needed at the time,” Mayfield said. “For me, our team has to play with an edge. I think them seeing me having a competitive side and an edge — all the time — is important. I think they feed off that, so yeah, there are some plays where I can slide.”

Did Baker Mayfield’s health influence the play calls?

According to Riley, backup Kyler Murray took the starter’s snaps during the practice week. Murray did play against the Wildcats, rushing for 4 yards on 2 attempts.

“We were able to work some things with Kyler more because Baker wasn’t practicing,” Riley said. “Did that have a big factor in the play calls? No.”

Using Murray in spot situations isn’t new. Oklahoma did it several times in the Ohio State game. But the Oklahoma coach defended the use of the direct snaps to fullback Dimitri Flowers with Mayfield lined up at wide receiver.

The Sooners used those three times in short-yardage situations and none of them worked against Kansas State.

“I looked at it; we ran that Wildcat I think 14 times [on third down] the past three years and we got [the first down or a touchdown on] 13 of the 14. So it’s hard to beat those percentages. And the line wasn’t the problem on it. The line had no problems. The line was fine,” Riley said.

A major difference between this season and the 2015 and ’16 seasons is who is getting those direct snaps. Before this season, they went to Samaje Perine or Joe Mixon.

Flowers is a fullback with a diverse set of skills, but he’s not a ball carrier in the same vein of Mixon and Perine.

“The one play, our fullback didn’t do a great job and then Dimitri has got to do a better job with a few technical things as the ball carrier when they were there,” Riley said. “So we’ve got to coach it better and execute it better, but schematically, there’s no problems.”

No restrictions for Baker Mayfield this week

Mayfield won’t have to spend his afternoons going through therapy sessions this week. Riley said he’s been cleared to practice as the Sooners prepare to face Texas Tech at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

The health of his shoulder seemed to be fine during the Kansas State game. Mayfield came off the field a few times, but no members of Oklahoma’s medical staff examined his shoulder.

Still, nothing surprises the Sooners when it comes to Mayfield’s play.

“Baker’s a superhero,” defensive lineman Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said. “Baker’s a guy who even if he had one leg, I know he’d go out there and throw for 100 passing yards. He’s an incredible player. We’re not surprised by him not practicing all week and being able to throw for 400.”

A ‘humbled’ USC harping ball security ahead of Arizona State

Published: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 @ 12:20 AM

The headlines, as they can often do, say it all:

Notre Dame capitalizes on turnovers to crush USC – Chicago Sun-Times.

USC doesn’t put up much of a fight in 49-14 loss to Notre Dame – LA Times.

Whether the Trojans read those stories or not doesn’t much matter. They lived the nightmare that was Saturday night in South Bend, a 49-14 drubbing. They watched their ranking plummet, all the way to No. 21, 10 spots from its previous post of 11. There was only one manner in which the Trojans could approach this week’s practice: Humbled.

And that’s exactly what coach Clay Helton said his team is.

“I think humble was the word,” Helton told the media at his press conference in Monday, when asked to describe the mood of his team. For good reason.

Saturday marked the first time Notre Dame had beat a ranked USC team since 1995. Even the typically optimistic Helton was left searching for words.

“We helped them by mistakes,” he said afterwards.

Lots and lots of mistakes. It’s been a season-long theme for the Trojans, who after eight weeks now rank nearly dead last in all of college football in turnovers lost. Only San Jose State has turned the ball over more than USC, which has coughed up the ball, either via interception or fumble, 19 times this year.

They came in a variety pack on Saturday night, with a fumbled snap, an interception, a muffed punt.

“The turnovers were key for us in the first half and being opportunistic, which really we’ve been all year offensively,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said afterwards. The Irish took advantage, jumping out to a 21-0 lead, thanks in large part to USC’s inability to take care of the ball.

“When they take away the ball, you just get so excited, and [offensive coordinator Chip] Long wants to be aggressive and call a play, usually,” Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush said.

That’s something the Trojans hope to remove from the equation this weekend against Arizona State, with the Pac-12 South lead on the line.

“We’ve done so many ball control drills, I can’t even tell you,” Helton said at practice on Monday, adding that the coaches have preaches ball security to the point that USC is “blue in the face.”

Blue in the face and humbled. A new look for USC football indeed.

Dolphins DE Cameron Wake quietly building Hall of Fame caliber resume

Published: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 @ 12:16 AM

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake rarely gets mentioned when people discuss the best defensive players to play in the National Football League over the last decade. That is not only puzzling, it’s also downright foolish.

Since 2009, his first year in the league, Wake has accumulated 87.5 sacks, which is more than every other player in the league over that stretch of time.

For the overwhelming majority of his football career Wake flown under the radar and has never really gotten the respect he deserves.

He originally entered the league in 2005 as an undrafted free agent linebacker (despite running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at his pro day) from Penn State. He had a very brief stint with the New York Giants during the 2005 offseason, but he was cut before even getting a chance to compete in training camp.

From there, Wake took his talents north of the border, signing a deal to play with the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League. He made the switch from linebacker to defensive end in the CFL, and a star was officially born.

In his two CFL seasons, Wake totaled 40 sacks and won the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award twice.

After his second CFL season, over half of the 32 teams in the NFL expressed an interest in signing Wake to a lucrative contract. He ended up signing on with the Dolphins, and he has been with the franchise ever since.

Wake is in the midst of his ninth NFL season, and the 2012 first-team All-Pro is showing no signs of slowing down. He has notched 6 sacks in six games, and he is one of the main reasons why the Dolphins are riding high with a 4-2 overall record. If he continues on his current pace, Wake, who has the second-most sacks by an undrafted player in NFL history (trailing only John Randle, who had 137.5 during his Hall of Fame career), could be in for a career year in 2017.

When it comes to his Hall of Fame credentials, Wake will likely accomplish enough during the NFL portion of his career to eventually get his gold jacket. With that being said, though, it’s worth pointing out that the prestigious shrine in Canton, Ohio is named the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the  NFL Hall of Fame, so technically Wake’s CFL accomplishments should factor into his candidacy.

Based on what he has shown this season, Wake still has plenty of gas left in his tank to play well beyond 2017. If he does, the Hall of Fame selection committee will not be able to ignore him.