10 Orbservations: Browns’ chances in AFC North, Brian Hoyer, Indians’ three reasons for success

10 Orbservations is a regular Saturday piece at Everybody Hates Cleveland where EHC Managing Editor Steve Orbanek offers 10 quick sports takes, both on Cleveland topics and national ones.

bnotes08cut-021. If Josh Gordon does find his way back onto the Cleveland Browns in 2014, even if just for six games, then the Browns might just be contenders in the AFC North. Sure, this sounds a bit outlandish at first, but let’s bring some things into context. The Pittsburgh Steelers look bad — very bad. In their 30-27 win over the Browns last Sunday, the Steelers looked totally inept in the second half. Then, that theme continued on Thursday as the Baltimore Ravens pummeled the Steelers 26-6. Of course, the Ravens aren’t perfect either. They looked quite inept themselves during a 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week. As it stands, the Bengals seem to be the cream of the crop of the division, but consider something that EHC’s Michael Hattery said in the latest edition of EHC: The Podcast. Hattery went team by team, position by position, and it appears as if the Browns stack up quite nicely. The one significant dropoff is quarterback, but Brian Hoyer was still effective on Sunday as he completed 19-of-31 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown. He should be even better this week against a porous New Orleans Saints’ secondary. On Friday, Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reported that Gordon’s suspension will be reduced from 16 games to 10 games under the NFL’s new drug policy. Now, just imagine if the Browns can somehow remain competitive through the next nine games before Gordon returns. They would then be set for a colossal boost in Gordon. In fact, this would have a similar impact to trade-deadline move in Major League Baseball. We just have to hope that Gordon stays in shape and conditioned so he can be big part of the equation when he returns. Until then, the Browns will have to rely on another wide receiver…

2. A big reason for Hoyer’s success in week one was new wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. Hawkins looked to be worth every bit of the four-year, $13.6 million contract he signed during the offseason as the University of Toledo product grabbed eight catches for 87 yards in what quickly became a career day. He seems to have developed a nice rapport with Hoyer, and he will continue to serve as his security blanket, especially if tight end Jordan Cameron misses the game with a shoulder injury. Hawkins can be a difference maker, and he will excel as a slot receiver in this offense. There is no reason to believe that he cannot have 800-plus yards as long as he stays healthy. As I outlined in an edition of Orbiting Cleveland two weeks ago, Hawkins has the potential to be an elite slot man in the NFL. Remember the impact that Wes Welker made once he was removed from the Miami Dolphins and traded to the New England Patriots? It’s not crazy to believe that Hawkins could make a similar impact.

3. Speaking of Brian Hoyer, isn’t it now clear that the right guy won the starting quarterback job? This is not a shot at Johnny Manziel, but as I watched Hoyer lead the Browns’ comeback last week, I kept thinking, “There is no way Manziel could ever pull this off right now.” This is not to say that Manziel could not eventually have this kind of success, but he simply is just not there at this point. As it stands, the starting quarterback job is best left in the hands of Hoyer.

4. This is not to suggest that Manziel should not play at all. During the preseason, we saw glimpses of Manziel’s talent as he rushed for 88 yards on 12 carries (7.3 yards per carry). His running ability translates to the NFL right now, and there are ways that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could utilize him. He automatically gives the defense a different look, and adjustments would be inevitable. I also admit that I would take pleasure in watching Manziel succeed just to counter the argument present by ESPN NFL Analyst Merril Hoge, who a week-and-a-half-ago said, “When I was doing the draft and I was going through and studying him, I actually got done and it was the first time other than Tim Tebow came out and I was like, ‘God, there is nothing — nothing that he does — that transitions to the National Football League.’” Somehow, I’m thinking Hoge will be eating some crow in regard to that statement…

5. The Indians have a 31-22 record in the second half, including a 25-14 mark in August and September. We have all touched on the pitching staff, but there are three other big reasons for the team’s recent success. First and foremost, Carlos Santana may be playing the best offensive baseball of his career. In the second half, Santana ranks third in the American League in WAR with 2.1 (per FanGraphs). He’s compiled a line of .280/.401/.548 to go along with 13 home runs and 40 RBI. He’s just a tremendous ballplayer, who also happens to lead the Majors in walks with 101. He’s done all of this while playing some stellar defense at first base. Oh, he also made his Twitter debut this past week (@CS41MLB), and promptly decided to follow EHC (@EvrybdyHatesCLE). You should probably follow suit. Really, as Santana proves, all the cool kids are doing it.

Jose+Ramirez+Kansas+City+Royals+v+Cleveland+nt5TTLYI12tl6. Reason number two is Jose Ramirez. Can we finally stop asking the question about whether or not Ramirez is an everyday player? In the second half, he has posted a WAR of 1.7 (per FanGraphs), which is tied for 10th in the American League. He has come in and immediately brought stability to the shortstop position, and also compiled some pretty timely hits along the way. Ramirez is likely not a long-term shortstop as that position seems destined for Francisco Lindor, but it’s going to be very difficult to not give Ramirez a spot somewhere on the infield. Could a move be in the future of second baseman Jason Kipnis? Either to a new position or a new team?

7. Reason number three is Michael Brantley. Brantley is tied with Ramirez for the 10th-best WAR in the American League during the second half. He continues to perform and has a good chance of being a 20-20 guy (currently has 18 home runs and 19 steals). He also has a legitimate shot at driving in 100 runs, as he’s sitting at 91 right now. It’s amazing how time can change our perspective. For years, the C.C. Sabathia trade was labeled a failure, but can that still be said today? Brantley seems to be on his way to blossoming into a perennial all-star and is one of the best clutch hitters in the game. All in all, that’s not a bad return for three months of Sabathia.

8. The Cleveland Cavaliers will institute a lottery system for single-game ticket purchases. Well, so much for going to a Cavs game this year. Due to such high demand, the Cavaliers will be experimenting with a brand-new system this season. On Sept. 26, the team will start taking names from fans who want to be entered into the lottery. During the first week of each month, fans whose names come up will have 12 hours to choose which game during the next month they want to attend. Each winning fan will be able to purchase up to six tickets. It’s not an awful idea by any means, and it does seem to be a fair system. Still, we knew demand was going to be high, but this high?

9. The more I watch Ethan Carter III on TNA Wrestling, the more convinced I become that he is the best up-and-coming performer in professional wrestling today. Carter had another splendid performance this past Wednesday on Impact Wrestling, both on the microphone and in the ring. He once again showed his innate ability to play off the crowd, and he does such a masterful job of blending his violent persona with his comedic one. His character has so many layers of depth to it, which is incredible when you consider that EC3 originally seemed to be just a comedy act when he made his debut last October. His match with Rhino on Wednesday once again showed how serious he can, and it looks like the book on that feud can officially be closed. Here’s hoping that Kurt Angle can somehow be healthy enough to compete at Bound for Glory in Tokyo on Oct. 12 as that could be a huge stepping stone for Carter.

BxNf4ycCMAA00leBv6LYC0IMAAJR6M.jpg large10. Please consider giving our Twitter account (@EvrybdyhateCLE) a follow as we’ll be giving out a bobblehead once we reach 1,000. Yes, sadly, this is a shameless plug. However, we realize that for EHC to truly grow, we will need to gain a large, loyal Twitter following. If you have not done so already, consider giving us a follow. We have both a Jason Kipnis and Sandy Alomar bobblehead at our disposal, and after we reach 1,000 followers, we will choose someone at random to pick a bobblehead of their choice.

To reach Steve, please send an email to orbaneks@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @orbaneks.

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