Help us, Obi Wan Mangini. You're our only hope.
We have been captured by our nemesis, Darth Apathy.
Your allies - The Cavaliers and the Indians - have been decimated by Free Agency and an uneven playing field. No one wants to come to their galaxies, or they can't afford to hire the necessary mercenaries to fight their enemies. They still exist - at least, if rumors are true - but they lay in hiding deep on frozen worlds and airless asteroids. There is little chance that they will be able to form any kind of resistance in the near future. They define futility.
Our only chance for rescue is you, Master Mangini. You are the only one with the ways and means of saving us from our cruel captor, and yet you and your troops have spend most of the last space age miserably flailing about the universe, walking into meteor showers and getting sucked into black holes. Your people have done nothing to take advantage of the situations provided to you. You too have defined futility.
But as long as there is life, there is hope (or so my shrink keeps saying). So we send this message to you in this, perhaps the greatest hour of need our people have ever known. We are dying, wasting away, converting to the Dark Side in record droves.
If you fail us now, there may be nothing that can save us.
Some of you have (rightfully) taken me to task for my lax review of Fake Game 4.
I apologize, but I cannot review Fake Game 4's. They star mostly players that will be sharpening up their telemarketing skills in a week.
Here's my review of the Bears game: Expletive Expletive Montario Hardesty got hurt! Son of a Expletive Expletive! And he looked so good, too.
Yes, it was nice that Colt McCoy hit 100% of his check downs (uh, passes). I could care less what he does until about this time next year. That is when I will want to see progress from him, because he's the one from the '10 Draft Class that has the most potential to be Veikune-istic.
(I don't think he will be, though.)
Brett Ratliff drives the 4th Stringers to a majestic game winning FG, mainly glorious because it avoided Preseason Overtime (an event which is like purposely asking the judge to double your community service). Thank you, Mr. Ratliff, and good luck.
Final: Browns 13, Bears 10.
Don't schedule Fake Game 4 opposite the Buckeyes' Real Game 1.
(Or Half Real Game, if you will, since those opening opponents are usually less than resistant.)
Cut or Terminated (Contract-Wise)
David Veikune (LB), Billy Yates (OL), DB Chris Chancellor (DB), DL Clifton Geathers (DL), RB Chris Jennings (RB), CB Brandon McDonald (CB), DL Swanson Miller (DL), QB Brett Ratliff (QB), Bobby Engram (WR), Scott Kooistra (OL), C.J. Mosley (DL), Jake Allen (WR), Casey Bender (OL), Coye Francies (CB), Joel Gamble (TE), Joel Reinders (OL), Syndric Steptoe (WR).
Most of these are no-brainers. Veikune I'll say more about later. Jennings was a bit surprising after the Hardesty injury, but I guess they figured other RB's of about equal talent would be around if needed. McDonald wasn't good enough to overcome the likely general disdain. Ratliff was the victim of McCoy being a high pick (and his own general ineffectiveness). Mosley was Just Another Guy.
Geathers was a bit of a surprise, since he was a project pick in the first place. I'm sure that the Browns hoped to sneak him through waivers and stash him on the Practice Squad, but the Dolphins nabbed him up (obviously retaliation for the Matt Roth fiasco). My initial reaction was to be irritated with management for blowing a gamble of that sort, like they did with Don Carey last year.
But then I thought: What the hell did Clifton Geathers ever do?
If he had showed anything, you know they would've stashed him. He was all the talk of early camp, he and Joel Reinders and Kwaku Danso - They're Big! They're Raw! They're Players to Watch!
And if any of those 3 did anything in any of the games, I don't remember it.
So I guess I'll save my Geathers wake until he makes the Pro Bowl.
Montario Hardesty (RB), Titus Adams (DL), Kwaku Danso (DL), Johnathan Haggerty (WR), Chris Roberson (DB), Dave Zastudil (P).
That's per the Official Site - I thought a couple of those guys were IR-waived as well.
Sigh... Oh, Montario...
Larry Asante (S), Paul Fanaika (OL), Travis Ivey (DL), Pat Murray (OL), Brian Sanford (DL), DeAngelo Smith (CB).
Asante was another player whose initial release surprised me, but he made it through waivers. Which is nice, because I've heard he has potential, even though he did nothing noteworthy at all during the Fake Games. And I was watching him specifically during those 4th Quarters, since our other Safeties outside of TJ Ward do unspeakable things to goats.
The rest of them are just injury depth.
Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy.
Now it's Showtime, Mr. Delhomme. You were a pleasant surprise during the Fake Games. Now they're Real.
However, as I have stated repeatedly, I am not overly worried about Jake. I don't think he'll be as good as he was during the Preseason, but I don't think he'll be anywhere nearly as bad as he was last season, and he's bound to be vast leaps and bounds better than Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.
And if he does suck, then Wallace is there to take over. I have as much confidence (if not more) in him as I do in Delhomme.
From Wallace to McCoy is a huge dropoff. Really, if they could've gotten away with stashing Colt on the Practice Squad, they probably would have. But that never would've flown. And it's not like Ratliff was any better.
Jerome Harrison, Lawrence Vickers, Peyton Hillis, James Davis.
For all of those that are in love with Hillis, the Hardesty injury is the best thing that could've happened to you. Hardesty surely would've taken a big chunk of carries away from Hillis (and Davis, for that matter), but now both will see plenty of time in relief of Harrison and in situational duty.
Losing Montario was a blow, there is no doubt, but that doesn't mean that the backfield isn't still talented and dynamic. They'll still be good, and I bet people in your fantasy league will be scrambling to pick up Hillis & Davis at some point.
The unit's just not as deep as it used to be a week ago. Which is why they have Chris Jennings on speed dial.
Mo Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey, Carlton Mitchell, Evan Moore.
Yes, I put Evan Moore here because this is where he belongs. Can't block and gets lined up in the slot and out wide. Hmmmm... sounds like a Receiver to me.
Mo is a quality WR. I want to doubt him, but I just can't.
Now Cribbs and Robiskie as the #2... those guys I can doubt. I want to believe that Cribbs has turned the page and become a viable WR. I want to believe that Robiskie has overcome his rookie errant ways and morphed into something productive. But seeing is believing in this case - probably more so than with any other spot on the team.
Stuckey is a decent slot guy, and Mitchell... well, watch for those Reverses.
Ben Watson, Robert Royal, Alex Smith.
Let's hope Watson stays healthy, because he's the only legit pass catcher amongst the three. If he does, look for a big year from him. He and Jake seemed to have formed a bond that Superglue would be jealous of.
Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao, Tony Pashos, Floyd Womack, John St. Clair, Steve Vallos
Only 8 deep, which is about right from what I saw in the Preseason. Make no mistake - this unit is the key to the Browns' season more than any other. Should one or two of these guys go down, it will be the opposite of pretty. Steve Buscemi opposite of pretty.
Thomas is one of the very best in the game, and Mack is looking solid. Steinbach is serviceable, and Lauvao (who I assume will start at RG) has plenty of potential. Pashos will likely start at RT, but I think he will eventually give way to Womack (once Porkchop is healthy and Pashos gets hurt and/or just blows).
I don't know much about Vallos, and what I do know about St. Clair makes me pray for health.
Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges, Ryan Pontbriand.
Phil's as solid as they come. The same cannot be said for Mr. Hodges at this point. He should be fine (if unspectacular), but you'd be surprised how many games are decided by a Punter error (no, I didn't do the research, but it's probably more than you think).
What a nice little career Pontbriand has made for himself long-snapping. Butch Davis' best draft pick.
Ahytyba Rubin, Shaun Rogers, Robaire Smith, Kenyon Coleman, Brian Schaefering, Derreck Robinson.
Rubin is now the most important player on the D Line, what with him starting at Nose Tackle and staying a lot more healthy than Mr. Rogers.
That being said, I am eager to see how the line performs with Rogers back in there, working this time from one of the End positions. Throw in Robaire Smith on the other side, and they have the potential - just potential, mind you - to be solid and to create some havoc.
Coleman and Schaefering provide decent depth, and Robinson is the reason that Geathers was released. The Browns could take a chance with maybe losing Geathers - they couldn't with Robinson. He was disruptive and effective throughout the entire Fake Season. His ability to penetrate and make plays in the backfield is exactly what this D Line needs.
Now, if that also leads to him abandoning gap integrity and giving up big running plays... boo.
Eric Wright, Sheldon Brown, Joe Haden, Derrick Roberson.
I'm assuming Wright and Brown will start, at least at the beginning of the season. As the ineffectiveness of the 2nd Safety and the fact that Haden is just better comes into fruition, I believe Brown will be moved to Safety, Roberson will be moved to Nickel, and Mike Adams will be moved to Dime. But that won't come for 6 or 7 games.
So with what we've got as of right now... yeah, it's OK. I think Wright will be good this year. His tackling/aggressiveness has certainly improved (as his showboating). Hopefully he can keep that up.
Brown is solid, but I have my worries. I just have a sinking feeling his best days are behind him, and if he gets beat a couple times, he might start to believe it too. Once a Corner believes that, they be Toast (otherwise known as Hank Poteat).
That's why I like Haden to finish the season as a starter. He's quick enough, he's aggressive, and he's physical. He'll make some Rookie mistakes, but he doesn't seem prone to getting down on himself.
You'll be seeing lots of spare cash being thrown at his jerseys during the offseason.
TJ Ward, Abe Elam, Mike Adams, Nick Sorensen, Ray Ventrone.
Paper thin and not-overly talented. Thank Dog that they picked 2 in the draft.
I like Ward a lot and think he'll be solid (even if he will give up more than his share of plays over the middle). It's the rest of that crowd... basically, they're there because of Special Teams. Ventrone and Sorensen probably won't see the field on Defense.
Please, don't let them see the field on Defense.
Matt Roth, Chris Gocong, D'Qwell Jackson, Scott Fujita, Eric Barton, Marcus Benard, David Bowens, Titus Brown, Blake Costanzo, Kaluka Maiava, Jason Trusnik.
I felt better about this crew before the Fake Season began than I do now. I still think there is good depth there, but playmakers? Very few. Now, it's nice to have a plethora of solid, but if the entire Front 7 is devoid of real difference-makers then it will be an interminably long season.
As I've said before, I'm not overly concerned about who starts, or where. Roth and Benard are probably the best Pass Rushers. Fujita, Gocong, Jackson, and Bowens are all fairly high quality (I give Bowens a Fake Season pass because he was injured and because of what he did last year). The other guys are depth and Special Teamers. The way the Browns use LB'ers, they need a lot of 'em.
And the fact that they need so many and they kept so many makes the tale of the following individual all the more frustrating...
David Veikune, we hardly knew ye.
Never before with a Browns player has that statement been more accurate.
I ain't mad at ya. I won't speak ill of ya. We've all tried something that we failed horribly at. The NFL was your something.
The epic whiff is on Mangini. Transitioning college DE's to NFL LB's is always dicey, but especially in the high rounds. If you take a project this high, then you better be right. Mangini was so not.
Veikune just never transitioned to a 3-4 LB from his former glory at DE. Perhaps he can salvage some semblance of a career on a 4-3 team, but it looks more like he will go down in history as yet another wasted high-round pick for the Cleveland Browns, a list which is long, dubious and painful, even more when you consider some of the players that were passed up in favor of these colossal duds (a task I dare not take on at this time).
At least the Browns saw enough to cut bait now and not keep trying to "make it work", as they did with fellow 2nd Round project-turned-bust Chaun Thompson.
The most frustrating thing, of course, is with each successive bomb comes the knowledge that the team is just that much further away from long term success because of said failure. It's not like we're the Colts or Pats and we can afford an early bust here and there. We need each and every 1st through 3rd pick to be at least - at the absolute minimum - a single.
Veikune was a foul tip.
And speaking of foul tips, POS had his suspension reduced from 6 games to 4. He's been doin' real good at bein' nice, you see.
Which puts him in line to return in Week 6 at home against the Browns.
Please, Mr. Ryan, can you get the pass rush fixed by at least that game? I'd love to see how many hits it takes to separate a man's head from his shoulders.
There is a common theme that the Browns should have known Hardesty would blow out his knee because he had some injury issues in college.
That is complete silliness. He was completely healthy his entire senior season and carried quite a bulk of the load. The doctors checked him out and he was fine. It's hard to find any RB that hasn't had a knee issue at some point. Players with zero injuries in college come in and get nailed (see: Carter, Ki-Jana). If you stayed away from every RB that had college injury history, then there's no way you would pick a Jamal Lewis or an Adrian Peterson.
In other words, chill.
An ACL injury ain't the death sentence it used to be. After proper rehab, those things come back almost as good as new. Look at Wes Welker - dude blew his knee out like 3 weeks ago and he's already back playing.
Hell, I heard that kids in high school were blowing out their knees on purpose just to get the surgery (or was that Tommy John's surgery?)
I still have high hopes for Hardesty, and if the Browns had one area where they could afford to lose a player for the season, Running Back was it. Getting him back next year will be almost like an extra draft pick!
I know, I know... before the Fake Season began, I predicted 7-9 for the Cleveland Browns.
I'm backpedaling on that.
I just think the talent gulf is still too wide between the Browns and many of the teams they play to be overcome this season. Sure, they'll play tough and they'll play smart, and I expect them to be in almost every game (less embarrassments). But they'll still lose more than they win.
Jake will be decent, until he gets hurt. Wallace will come in and play fine too, until Jake comes back. Neither will light up the world, nor will they darken it.
The Running Game will be solid, but without a serious deep threat, the better teams will be able to stack the box and control it to a degree. The Wide Receivers will be better than nationally expected, aided in large part by Moore and Watson, but none of them will be game-changers.
The Defense will be better than they have looked so far, and they will manufacture pressure. But they'll suck against the Run for the 90th year in a row, and defending the middle of the field will continue to be a difficulty for them.
Special Teams will, of course, struggle in obscurity and vain to help the team win.
Sadly, 6-10 is the most we can honestly expect for our Rebel Alliance.
As for the rest of the NFL...
AFC North - Baltimore 13-3, Cincy 9-7, Pittsburgh 7-9, Cleveland 6-10.
AFC East - New England 10-6, Jets 9-7, Miami 8-8, Buffalo 5-11.
AFC West - San Diego 11-5, Kansas City 8-8, Oakland 7-9, Denver 4-12.
AFC South - Indy 13-3, Titans 10-6, Houston 10-6, Jacksonville 6-10.
NFC North - Green Bay 12-4, Minny 10-6, Detroit 7-9, Chicago 4-12.
NFC East - Philly 10-6, Cowboys 10-6, Giants 8-8, Washington 6-10.
NFC South - Saints 12-4, Atlanta 10-6, Carolina 7-9, Tampa 3-13.
NFC West - San Fran 11-5, Rams 6-10, Arizona 6-10, Seattle 4-12.
Yes, that means we can let the meaningful Top 10 Draft Pick discussion begin at any time, boys and girls.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0).
Never in the history of the Cleveland Browns (2.0) has the first game of the season been so important.
Tampa is not a good team. They have some talent here and there, but they are really young and have a ways to go. Their QB is entering his 1st year as a full-time starter, and he's been hurt most of the Preseason. He shouldn't (emphasis on "should not") be able to tear the Defense apart like the QB's of the Fake Game variety.
This will likely be the weakest team the Browns face all year (with an honorable mention to the Bills). If they lose this game, it will be like someone dumped a truck full of manure straight into a turbine. The "Here We Go Again" will kick into a never-before-seen overdrive, and it's really just way too depressing to even think about, especially when there's NOTHING ELSE TO LOOK FORWARD TO. I need to erase the notion from my head.
So this is as close to a must-win as you can reasonably expect from a Season Opener. It's sounds oh-so reactionary and melodramatic, but a loss to the Bucs of Tampa Bay will pretty much mean the season is over.
And the earth will probably explode too.
Browns 27, Buccaneers 17.
People That I Dislike More Than Aaron Goldhammer
People ahead of you in line at the gas station that buy 750 lottery tickets.
I'm standing there, a case in either hand, waiting in the one open line at the convenience counter. Halftime will be over shortly, and the girl behind the counter is none too swift (in many senses of the word).
And, inevitably, the person right in front of me with only the seemingly innocent can of Busch Light in her hands decides that she needs, um... one of those... and two of those... and three green ones... and can I redeem a ticket I bought last night? I won $2!
I want to point out to her that she probably spent $40 winning that $2, and logic dictates that that is a poor investment. But I'm not sure she would understand the words coming out of my mouth, so I decide rather to focus my mental energy on helping the counter-person to sort through the vast array of brightly colored tickets.
And when that doesn't help, and the line is now out the door, and the lottery fiend just sits there obliviously scratching at the hole in her sweat pants, I now focus my mental energy into what I hope is a bolt of deadly lightning.
Lady, if I miss any of the game, I'm gonna shove that glittery one someplace I really don't want to even get near.
Even Goldhammer wouldn't be such a tool.