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.
1. Suddenly the Cleveland Browns find themselves on the verge of a must-win Sunday. Okay, I admit the cliché “must-win” is about as overused as they come, but it’s applicable here. The Browns are 1-2. The teams’ two losses are by a combined five points. It’s imperative that the Browns go out in this contest and prove that they’re a different team from the Browns of the past. On paper, it would appear as if the Browns’ opponent, the Tennessee Titans, are exactly what the doctor ordered. Since defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 26-10 in their opener, the 1-3 Titans have been outscored 100-34. So it appears that this is a game the Browns should win, but we know that’s easier said than done, especially on the road. The key will be scoring points early on a Titans’ defense, which ranks 27th in the NFL in points allowed (27.5). The Browns cannot let the Titans linger around in this game as that’s just a bad recipe for winning on the road in the NFL.
2. Speaking of the Browns, I have to say that I have become a fan of head coach Mike Pettine. That’s hard to even admit as it goes against the norm for me. For clarification, I tend to flip-flop in regard to my thoughts on Browns coaches. I did not like Chris Palmer, yet I liked Butch Davis. While I thought Romeo Crennel to be an endearing individual, I thought little of his coaching prowess. I came to like the Browns’ next coach, Eric Mangini, but I absolutely despised Pat Shurmur. I actually liked Rob Chudzinski last season, so my track record would suggest that I would not be too fond of Pettine. However, I’ve really taken to him thus far, and I tend to believe that the Browns may have found someone special. Just listen to his post game press conferences. His passion, the way he articulates things — you cannot manufacture that. Of course, opinions can easily change, and I am basing this opinion on a body of work that’s just three games. Still, he gets my stamp of approval so far.
3. Did anyone happen to read ESPN’s article that touched on the Brian Hoyer vs. Johnny Manziel debate? The article, written by David Fleming for ESPN Magazine, is truly a must-read piece. It brilliantly captures the current dynamics of the Cleveland area, and there’s a resonation that cannot be denied. He also helps to accurately paint Hoyer as one of our own. Speaking of the Browns’ quarterback, I’m becoming more and more impressed with him each week. If you asked me three months ago if I thought he could be the quarterback of the future, I would have definitively said, “No.” However, when I look at Hoyer now, I see a little bit of Chad Pennington, a little bit of Matt Cassel, and more importantly — I see a competitor. I’m not yet saying that three games means Hoyer can be our guy for the long haul, but here is what I know. His quarterback rating is 97.5. He’s yet to throw an interception. He’s completing 64.2 percent of his passes. You can pinpoint a lot of reasons as to why the Browns are only 1-2, but Brian Hoyer is not one of them.
4. On to the reasons… The biggest has to be the Browns’ defense, which ranks 30th in yards per game allowed with 425.7. The team’s rushing defense has been one of the primary culprits as it ranks 29th and is allowing 153.7 rushing yards per game. Pettine has shown himself to be a blitz-happy coach, which could explain some of the easy rushing yards that teams are racking up. Also, the overall effectiveness of the blitzing is debatable as the Browns only have five sacks on the season, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. Our 2013 No. 6 overall draft pick, Barkevious Mingo, still has zero sacks on the young season. This is not to rag on Mingo or any of the Browns’ other defensive players. However, if a team is going to call blitzes, its players need to execute, and that simply has not been the case to this point.
5. Yet, for as inept as the defense has been, the Browns’ offense has been a pleasant surprise. The unit ranks 13th in both yards and points per game with 362.7 and 24.7, respectively. Hoyer has found his favorite target in wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, whose 244 yards have already surpassed his receiving yardage total from last season (199 with the Cincinnati Bengals), and he looks to be on the verge of a breakout 2014 campaign. As I’ve said before, I see Wes Welker-potential in Hawkins. A lot of credit must also be given to the team’s collection of running backs. Ben Tate is supposed to return to action tomorrow, but does it even matter? Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell have done an admirable job in his place. That’s especially true with Crowell, who reportedly took most of the first-team reps this week at practice. Crowell went undrafted this past year due to a prior gun charge, but it looks like the Browns may have found a diamond in the rough. He’s a powerful runner with excellent field vision, which he’s displayed on more than one occasion already. With Crowell and West, the team should be set at this position for years to come.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt made headlines Friday with the news that he could rest LeBron James at times this season. He then wasted little time in doing just that as James sat out a morning two-a-day practice on Friday to rest his back. Personally, I’m not concerned. Hell, I wouldn’t be concerned if James decided to sit out the rest of the preseason. The bottom line is that the Cavaliers are looking at this year’s regular season as their preseason. This team is on a mission, and the real journey is going to begin once they enter the postseason. So with that said, rest up King James. You’ve got a long road ahead of you.
7. This past week, we got our first look at the Cavaliers during the Wine and Gold Scrimmage. To the surprise of many, the Cavaliers’ starting center was the six-foot, nine-inch Tristan Thompson. This is not a knock against Thompson, who always plays hard and has been one of the few bright spots in recent years, but it was surprising to see him get the nod here. This small lineup employed by Blatt suggests what many of us already knew — this team plans to run. With Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, James, Kevin Love and Thompson, the Cavaliers will definitely be equipped to do just that. The teams’ first preseason contest is Sunday against Blatt’s old team, Maccabi Tel Aviv. It will fun to see how this all starts to gel in an actual game. Thankfully, the game is not until 6:00 p.m., so between the Browns and Cavaliers, Cleveland fans can expect a busy Sunday.
8. If you have not yet read Waiting For Next Year’s profile on James Posey, you’re missing out. The piece, written by Jeff Kasler, touches on the life of the Cleveland native, who is now a coach with the Cavaliers after spending one year as a coach with the NBA D-League’s Canton Charge. The story is one of the best Cleveland-sports pieces I’ve seen in quite some time, and it’s indicative of the great work that WFNY does on a regular basis. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
9. According to ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor, Corey Kluber is still the favorite in the American League to win the Cy Young Award. Let’s hope that stays true as he certainly deserves it. Interestingly enough, Felix Hernandez is third on the list, behind Detroit’s Max Scherzer. See, now that’s what concerns me. Everyone knows this is a two-horse race between Kluber and Hernandez, so I start to question the credibility of this predictor system if Scherzer is listed third. Basically, the vote is going to come down to two deciding points. Will the voters accept advanced metrics, which clearly favor Kluber? And will the voters take the Indians’ poor defense into account, which ranked last in the majors with 116 errors? My thinking is they will disregard the first point, but might factor in the latter. That leaves me somewhat optimistic that Kluber, his 18-9 record, 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts can take home the hardware.
10. As always, here’s my weekly pitch to follow us on Twitter at @EvrybdyHatesCLE. Last week when I made this pitch, we were at 349 followers, and we’re now at 376, so that shows you that we did some pretty decent work this past week. As fellow EHC Managing Editor Jim Pete will attest, Everybody Hates Cleveland is not yet where we’d like it to be, but we continue to work hard to try to make this one of the best Cleveland-based sports blogs out there. There’s plenty of great ones already there, and our goal is to just join that that conversation. Hope you enjoy what you see. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.