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. Last week, the Cleveland Browns were defeated 24-6 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. I still cannot get the sour taste out of my mouth following that loss. You can talk about all of the negatives from that contest, and there are plenty. Quarterback Brian Hoyer did not look like his usual self, the offensive line could not compensate for the loss of center Alex Mack and the defense, despite getting three interceptions, allowed Denard Robinson run like he was still quarterbacking the Michigan Wolverines. Obviously, it’s important not to overreact as this was just one game, but here’s my fear. Even if the Browns do make it to 5-3 by winning their next two contests against the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I think this could be a game they will have needed later in order to secure a playoff berth. The schedule has been a gift so far in the first half, but that’s not the case in the second half of the season as matchups with Indianapolis, Baltimore and two divisional matchups with Cincinnati loom. If the Browns do not make the playoffs this season, it will be tough to not look back at this game as a primary reason.
2. Of course, using the “P” word with Browns is always a dangerous practice, but you have to admit, at least up until last week, something felt different about this team. And that’s been the perception nationally as well. Brandon Tierney, host of CBS Radio’s national morning show “TBD: Tiki, Brandon, and Dana,” was one of the first national media persons to publicly go on record in regard to the Browns. On the October 9 edition of the show, Tierney said, “If they beat the Steelers this Sunday, they will be a playoff team this season. By the time (Josh) Gordon returns (on Nov. 23), they will have such a mojo, such an identity, they will be on the way to the playoffs.” High praise. And Tierney was hardly the only one in the national media to jump on this bandwagon. I think that’s precisely why last week’s loss was so devastating. Everyone was finally starting to take notice, and then the team went out and did that.
3. Now, this is obviously just a coincidence, but isn’t it somewhat odd that Andrew Hawkins’ best performances seem to always come in losses? The Browns wide receiver had the best performance of his career last Sunday, one of the few bright spots in the loss. Hawkins snagged five receptions for 112 yards to record the first 100-yard receiving game of his career. On the season, he now leads the Browns with 29 receptions for 382 yards. It does indeed appear as if he could have an outside shot at a 1,000-yard season. In three Browns’ losses so far, Hawkins has 20 receptions for 286 yards. In three Browns’ wins, he has just nine receptions for 96 yards. This probably means nothing, but it’s interesting how the Browns have been able to win games with one of their best players barely showing up in the box score.
4. Even with all of this negativity that I have been spewing, I must say that I am optimistic for tomorrow. Cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nonetheless. On paper, tomorrow’s game looks just like last week’s as the Browns face another winless team. However, it’s different as this one is at home. The Browns have played significantly better at home than on the road this season, and that should bode well for tomorrow. Oakland also allows 145.3 rushing yards per game, which is the 29th ranked run defense. One would hope that Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West will have a field day out there. That was one of the problems with last week’s contest as the Browns seemed to abandon the run once it did not initially work. They cannot do that here.
5. Also, the other key for the Browns is their own run defense. As it stands, the Browns allow an average of 155.5 yards per game, which is dead last in the NFL. However, if there is a game for this defense to have a good performance, it’s tomorrow. Oakland’s primary runner, Darren McFadden, is only 27 years old, but he’s an old 27. Injuries have hampered him so much throughout his career that the former No. 4 overall pick has just one 1,000-yard season to his credit. In addition, the Raiders have Maurice Jones-Drew in their backfield, but he’s basically been a non-factor all season with just 18 carries for 48 yards. Nothing about the Raiders’ rushing attack is even remotely scary, and the Browns cannot let it even start to get on a roll in this game.
6. I want to touch on one final Browns point before moving on. This past week on “The Cleveland Sports Guyz,” fellow EHC Managing Editor Jim Pete and I discussed Johnny Manziel. I’m not calling for him to be inserted into a game anytime soon, but I think last week’s contest was an eye-opener for many reasons. Heading into that game, there was so much noise from the local media that Hoyer would not sign a contract extension as long as Manziel is here. Still, who are we to say that Hoyer even deserves a big-money quarterback contract? It seems far too early to make that type of commitment, especially with Manziel still there. In fact, if you even remotely believe that Manziel can be special, I would argue that you do not make this deal. In the meantime, I would give Hoyer the franchise tag just so you can see a greater body of work. Listen, I love Hoyer as much as the next guy, and on many occasions, I have compared him to a more athletic version of Chad Pennington. That said, I’m also a realist, and I am not about to go throw big dollars to a guy with less than a full season of starts to his credit.
7. I get giddy when I think of next Friday. As you know, next Friday is Halloween, but more importantly, it’s the Cleveland Cavalier’s first game of the season. I desperately wish I could be there in attendance at the game, but if you’ve heard, this is no cheap date. According to @TiqIQ, the average price of a ticket to this game is $884.42. Yeah, nuts, I know. Interestingly enough, the Cavaliers are not only the hottest ticket in town, but also the hottest ticket in the NBA. It’s estimated that the average price a family of four will pay to go to a game this season will be $1,504.89. The Knicks are second at $1,218.80. None of this comes as a surprise, but it’s further proof of the effect that professional sports teams, especially when LeBron James is a member of that team, can have on a city’s economy.
8. Halloween is also notable for another reason this year. It’s the deadline for the Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson to agree on a rookie-scale extension. There have reportedly been zero talks, so it looks as if this is not going to happen. This means that Thompson is all but certain to become a restricted free agent this summer. The Cavaliers would then have the right to match any offer sheet made to Thompson, but that also seems unlikely since there will be a big salary cap increase this summer, and teams will certainly be willing to throw big money toward him. So, could this be the last season for Thompson in the wine and gold? It seems like a risky venture to at least not consider signing him to an extension now. While he may have already reached his ceiling, no one can deny Thompson’s work ethic and the energy that he brings every night. He’s averaged 11.7 points and 9.3 rebounds the past two seasons, and there’s something to be said for that level of consistency. There’s a chance he could be the starting center on Friday, and it will be interesting to watch him in that role. He could flourish. It will be interesting to see if something does happen this week as we need to remember that Rich Paul, James’ close friend and agent, also happens to be the agent of Thompson. You have to believe that could be somewhat of a factor here.
9. I did a little research this past week for my Monday column, Orbiting Cleveland. In the piece, I looked at Corey Kluber’s 2014 season and stacked it up against every other pitcher to wear an Indians uniform. I was amazed to see that in regard to WAR, per FanGraphs, Kluber ranked ninth all time. It was the best season that we have seen from an Indians starter since Gaylord Perry in 1978. As I noted on Monday, it’s haphazard to compare eras like this, but I did enjoy gaining the perspective of just how great of a season Kluber just had. I’m still very skeptical as to whether or not he actually takes home the American League Cy Young hardware, but I must say that I’ll be very disappointed if he doesn’t. It was such a joy to watch him pitch during this past season, and a Cy Young Award seems to be a just award.
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