Browns show promise in training camp

Published: Monday, July 31, 2017 @ 5:02 PM

BEREA, OH - JULY 29, 2017: Center JC Tretter #64 of the Cleveland Browns takes part in a drill during a training camp practice on July 29, 2017 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by: 2017 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
Diamond Images/Diamond Images/Getty Images
BEREA, OH - JULY 29, 2017: Center JC Tretter #64 of the Cleveland Browns takes part in a drill during a training camp practice on July 29, 2017 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by: 2017 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)(Diamond Images/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

BEREA — The Cleveland Browns have taken a positive approach to improving their 1-15 record from a season ago. The Browns were one of the biggest winners on draft day and did an admirable job addressing some needs in free agency. Now it’s time to see if the offseason acquisitions will mesh with existing talent and help win games.  

Judging by the first few days of training camp the team is showing promise.  

Quarterback quandary  

The million dollar question is who will be the starting quarterback for the season opener: Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler or rookie DeShone Kizer?  

Kessler appears to have a leg up on the competition after spending a season in the system. He made some nice throws with touch and showed that he can push the ball down the field, connecting with receiver Kenny Britt for a touchdown. Kessler also had a few passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and forced an interception.  

Coach Hue Jackson likely will have Kessler on a short leash as No. 1 throughout this evaluation process.  

Osweiler prospered while substituting for future Hall Famer Peyton Manning during the Denver Broncos Super Bowl run two seasons ago. The quarterback’s performance earned him a monstrous free agent contact with the Houston Texans, when then shipped him off after one disappointing season.  

Now in Cleveland, Osweiler finds himself in the midst of a three-way competition. Early on, he’s been precise with his intermediate passes and throwing into tight windows. He made nice reads while going through his progressions but did have a couple of miscues on timing routes. He was fairly accurate, poised in the pocket and showed a quick release.  

Of the three quarterbacks, Kizer, the second-round draft pick from Notre Dame, shows the most promise. He matched the veterans throw-for-throw completing passes. Kizer stands tall and poised in the pocket when making his reads and shows good velocity on his throws, with a nice delivery. He possesses a big-league arm and demonstrated that ability by throwing passes that ripped through the gusty wind. The rookie also showed his athleticism, making plays with his feet.  

Kizer fit some passes into tight widows and throws a nice deep ball, but he stared down his intended targets and held the ball too long at times. The talent is clearly visible, but there is much work to be done.  

Too hot to handle  

Perhaps the most intriguing rookie is tight end David Njoku who was selected 29th overall from Miami.  

Njoku is very talented with tremendous upside. He’s explosive off the line with good acceleration and shows great leaping ability catching the ball at its highest point over defenders. However, the rookie has serious issues with dropped and fumbled passes so far.  

Despite that, Njoku is taking a businesslike approach to the learning curve.  

“The playbook is a lot more complex than college, but this is my job now,” he said. “Everyone is a professional here, everyone is getting paid to play, and at any moment you can get cut or fired. I’m going to make sure I work that much harder learning the playbook so I can be here as long as possible.”  

The coaching staff is pleased with the progress of tight end Seth DeValve, who was injured much of last season. DeValve is not the most dazzling receiver but catches everything and knows how to get open. He’s a good blocker and plays well in line and flanked to the slot position.  

DeValve did fumble once after being thumped by safety Derrick Kindred running up the sideline after a catch.  

Overall, there is much for Cleveland fans to be charged about in the early stages of training camp.

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.

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.

Eagles LT Jason Peters suffers brutal knee injury against Redskins

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 10:51 PM

The Philadelphia Eagles suffered a devastating blow on Monday night when All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the third quarter of their game against the Washington Redskins.

Peters went down grabbing his leg in obvious pain before being fitted with an aircast and ultimately being carted off to the Eagles’ locker room.

In a sign of the possible severity of his injury, nearly every player on the Philadelphia sideline – and Washington left tackle Trent Williams – came on to the field to console Peters while the fans at Lincoln Financial Field chanted the former undrafted free agent’s name.

Peters’ injury came one day after fellow All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns suffered his own season-ending injury.

If Peters’ injury is as serious as it appeared, the nine-time Pro Bowl selection’s career could unfortunately be over. Even if he never plays another down of football, though, Peters has a spot waiting for him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For the Eagles, replacing Peters will be nearly impossible.

Vance Joseph won’t commit to C.J. Anderson as Broncos starting RB

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 8:31 PM

With their season at a crossroads, the Denver Broncos will likely be making some changes to their starting lineup in the coming days and weeks. One player that could be in danger of losing his starting job is running back C.J. Anderson.

After turning in outstanding performances in each of the team’s first two games season (45 carries for 199 yards and 1 touchdown, and 4 catches for 43 yards and 1 touchdown), Anderson has seen both his touches and production decrease in the four games since.

Anderson is now a part of a three-man running back rotation that features him, Jamaal Charles, and Devontae Booker. All three players have been productive at times, but it has been Charles who looks like a potential game-changer.

Last week, Denver head coach Vance Joseph said that the team would like to increase Charles’ workload. That didn’t prove to be the case against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon, but the fact that Joseph was non-committal on Monday afternoon when asked if Anderson would remain the team’s starting running back speaks volumes.

“Again, it’s not just C.J.,” Joseph explained during his press conference on Monday afternoon. “We have three backs playing and I thought the backs ran the ball hard yesterday. When there was space to make yardage, they did. When there wasn’t, they didn’t. I’m not down on C.J. Again, the offensive issues are a unit issue.”

While that wasn’t necessarily a vote of confidence or a solid sign of a pending demotion for Anderson, it does bear pointing out that Joseph had this to say (also on Monday) when asked if Trevor Siemian would remain the team’s starting quarterback:

“Absolutely. He’s our quarterback.”

Anderson will still likely factor heavily into the Broncos’ offensive plans either way, but this could be the first sign that Denver could be moving in the direction of giving Charles a much heavier workload.