Cleveland Browns fourth-round pick could miss season

Published: Saturday, May 13, 2017 @ 9:02 PM

Browns fourth-round draft pick Howard Wilson, a cornerback from the University of Houston, broke his kneecap in practice Friday, will undergo surgery soon and could miss the season.

“It’s disappointing but this is part of playing football,’’ Wilson said in a statement released by the Browns. “It was kind of a freak thing. I was just running around and my knee just kind of locked up on me.”

The timetable for Wilson’s return will be determined after the surgery. It’s his second major knee injury in two years. He suffered a torn ACL in 2015.

“It’s unfortunate,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He’ll be out for a while, significant time.”

Jackson acknowledged the loss of Wilson, a ballhawk, who had five interceptions at Houston last season, is a blow.

“Absolutely,’’ said Jackson. “Any time you lose a player that you drafted the first day when you’re trying to see what he is and how he can contribute, that’s hard.”

Former Reds’ great Larkin remains fan favorite

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 5:10 PM

All but one of these former Reds is in the baseball Hall of Fame, yet Barry Larkin (second from left) might be the all-time nice guy for his willingness to pose for pictures with fans.  It would be a tough call, though, judging between Johnny Bench (right) and Joe Morgan (second from right). Pete Rose signs more autographs than all of them, probably combined.
Getty Images

People have for years been bugging former Cincinnati Moeller football star Barry Larkin for autographs and pictures, you know, but he pulled quite the surprise on a Reds fan when he asked her – Laura O’Brien – to pose for a snapshot.

Well, probably not really, if you dive into the hash tags in her post, which can be found her Twitter account @Lauralee987:


Larkin, the Moeller graduate (1983) who went to the University of Michigan to play football only to change his mind and play just baseball, beat out Kurt Stillwell to become the Reds’ shortstop from 1986-2004.

That worked out. The guy ended up in the baseball Hall of Fame, after all, thanks to 19 seasons spent with the Reds, for whom he had a .295 batting average, 2,340 hits, 198 home runs, 960 RBI, 379 stolen bases and 1,329 runs scored. 

In Bill James’ noted Historical Baseball Abstract, he ranked the No. 6 shortstop of all time.

He’s nice, too, kindly re-Tweeting O’Brien’s post @@BarryLarkin.

Now a baseball analyst for ESPN, Larkin is in the Reds’ Hall of Fame as a 12-time All-Star, 1995 MVP and key component of Cincinnati’s massive upset of the Oakland A’s in the 1990 World Series.

It’s no wonder O’Brien would want a photo with this guy. The dude put up serious numbers, as this metrical snapshot shows, and, again, he’s nice. 

His No. 11 was retired by the Reds, rightfully.


Browns, Bengals offensive lines on different spectrums

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 3:45 PM

Larry French/Getty Images

The Browns’ and Bengals’ offensive lines couldn’t be much different. 

One is arguably the league’s best on paper, the other is a work in progress. One is the result of a spending spree, the other was victimized by free agency.

Pro Football Focus ranked the NFL’s offensive lines heading into the 2017 season. The Browns came in second, while the Bengals sank to 31st.

Philadelphia beat Cleveland out for the top spot, but optimism is high for the Browns unit. 

“The offseason free agent spending spree could pay off huge dividends in Cleveland,” PFF said. “J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler both bring well above-average grades from a season ago at center and guard, respectively. The only question mark comes at right tackle where Shon Coleman looked at least competent in his 62 snaps as a rookie.”

Coleman is competing with Cameron Erving for the right tackle job, but the rest of the offensive line is set. Joe Thomas is PFF’s second most efficient pass blocker since 2012. Keitler and Joel Bitonio might be the best guard duo in the league.

Quarterback is an uncertainty, but whoever’s back there should receive plenty of protection.

Cincinnati became a perineal playoff contender behind its usually strong offensive line. But losing Andrew Whitworth and Zeitler is hard to overcome, at least in one offseason.

PFF isn’t impressed by the Bengals’ new look line. Only Seattle was rated worse.

“No line can lose two Pro Bowl-caliber players and expect to still perform at a high level,” PFF said. “This is especially true for the Bengals who look completely at a loss to fill the shoes of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler. The loss may be felt the most at tackle where the drafted replacements – Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi – have looked lost anytime they’ve seen the field.”

If the Bengals return to the playoffs in 2017, the offensive line must outperform that expectation. That starts and ends with Fisher and Ogbuehi. If it fails, letting two elite lineman walk for nothing will be justifiably criticized.


Browns’ Joe Thomas ranked NFL’s second-best pass blocker

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 2:42 PM

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 29: Tackle Joe Thomas #73 of the Cleveland Browns talks to his teammates prior to the start against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Joe Thomas dominating isn’t exactly news to Browns fans (or the NFL), but Pro Football Focus has a stat to quantify it.

Thomas has been the second most efficient pass blocker in the league since 2012, scoring a 97 rating from PFF. Andrew Whitworth, former Bengal and current Ram, ranks first at 97.6.

PFF said the stat “measures pressure allowed on per snap basis with weighting towards sacks.”

As much change and chaos that’s happened around Thomas during his career, it hasn’t impacted his play. He’s blossomed into everything Cleveland could’ve hoped for when it drafted him third overall in 2007.

The Browns are placing unprecedented emphasis on their offensive line. The team spent over $100 million this offseason in adding guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter to its interior, while also extending guard Joel Bitonio. The right tackle competition is still open, but pairing that trio with Thomas should make the Cleveland line arguably its biggest strength.


Former Bengals tackle is NFL’s most efficient pass blocker

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 2:15 PM

Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth watches from the sidelines during a break on the first day of mandatory mini camp Tuesday, June 14 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Staff Writer

Departed Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth has been the most efficient pass blocking tackle in the NFL since 2012, according to Pro Football Focus.

Cincinnati drafted Whitworth in 2006. He was the foundation on one of the NFL’s best offensive lines that helped the Bengals to playoff appearances from 2011-2015.

PFF graded Whitworth at 97.6. The stat “measures pressure allowed on per snap basis with weighting towards sacks,” according to PFF.

The Bengals reportedly intended to re-sign Whitworth, with head coach Marvin Lewis going as far as saying they were “optimistic” about a deal. But that never came to fruition, and Whitworth signed with the tackle-needy Los Angeles Rams.

Now, the Bengals tackle spot is reliant on former first rounders Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. Both players were drafted to ignite a youth movement on the line, but neither has shown enough for any confident projections.

This season will be a transition year for the Bengals line. Cincinnati also lost guard Kevin Zeitler to Hue Jackson’s Browns in free agency.