10 Orbservations: The Browns win big over the Bengals, LeBron’s leadership, Silver Sluggers

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.

i1. Six. That’s a special number this week. With the Cleveland Browns’ 24-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night, the team’s record improved to 6-3. What makes this so significant is that the Browns have now eclipsed five wins for the first time since 2007 when the team finished 10-6. That may not seem like that big of deal, but it’s much more significant than many of us realize. For reference, consider last season. The Browns were 3-2 after five games. Then, they won just one more game for the season’s remainder and ended the year at 4-12. Back in June, when I spoke to ESPN’s John Clayton about the Browns, he said the following:

“They need to get to seven wins. And the reason I say that is what you don’t want to see is another change of coaches. I mean, if it is five or six wins this year, Jim Haslam may be in the same boat where he may say, you know what, I’m going to go for Adam Gase and bring him over from the Denver Broncos, and try to do that. You know, that’s what I worry about because what this franchise needs, as I mentioned at the very beginning, is to stop stepping on its own toes. Try to at least have a little patience, allow the fans to have some patience, and try to build it as opposed to constantly changing.”

It’s never good to speak too soon, but it seems as if the Browns are well on their way to accomplishing that feat and likely even more wins. Regardless of what happens from here on out, Thursday’s win cemented the 2014 season as a season of growth for the Browns.

2. Now, here comes some of the negative. I watched every single detail of that game on Thursday and here is the question I keep asking myself: “Were the Browns that good, or was Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton that bad?” After a couple days of reflecting, I think it was a bit of both. For the game, Dalton finished 10-of-33 for 86 yards, three interceptions and a putrid quarterback rating of 2.0. It was by far some of the worst professional quarterbacking that many of us have ever seen. But to be fair, the Browns also did some very good things in this game. They had two scoring drives that sucked more than five-and-a-half minutes off the clock, and the defense frequently was in Dalton’s face. Also, Brian Hoyer was very efficient as he completed 15-of-23 passes for 198 yards and no interceptions. Combine the bustling wind with the fact that Hoyer was without his top-two receiving threats in Andrew Hawkins and Jordan Cameron, and it’s easy to see that this was a very good game for him. There certainly were no Johnny Manziel chirps heard after Thursday night.

3. One person who did not seem too impressed with the Browns was Bengals running back Jeremy Hill. After the game, Hill was asked if the Browns were better than he previously thought and he responded, “Oh no, not at all. They’re probably worse than I thought, to be honest with you. They didn’t do anything special to me. I mean, respect to them, they won the game. But that’s all I’ll give them.” He then continued, “Those guys, they’re not that good. It was on us. We gave them the game, in my opinion. They didn’t do anything special. We just gave them the game. They just sat back with coverage the whole day.” The comments were a tad odd as Hill did not seem to be in a position to dish out the insults, considering he rushed for just 55 yards on 12 carries and also lost a fumble in the game. A lot of Browns fans took to social media to express their frustration with Hill’s words, but none of it seemed too significant to me. It’s important to note that Hill is barely 22 years old and still a rookie. This can be chalked up to ignorance that was displayed in the heat of the moment. Plenty of former Browns have done similar things in the past as well. My guess is that Hill probably won’t make comments like this in three years from now. We’re all allowed to be young and stupid once, right?

4. How good has Taylor Gabriel been for the Browns? The Abilene Christian product went undrafted this past May in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he’s been quite the find for Browns’ General Manager Ray Farmer. Overall, he ranks sixth amongst NFL rookies in receiving yards with 435. Beyond that though, he’s shown himself to be a sounds route runner and is capable of creating separation. He has many of the same skills that have made Hawkins such an asset for the Browns this year. Gabriel had some monster seasons at Abilene Christian (215 receptions for 3,027 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career), and it’s a shock he was not drafted. With Gabriel, the Browns have now found another young, promising receiving prospect, who will hopefully be a part of the team’s core for years to come. He’s a good player already, but he’s only going to get better.

5. With the win on Thursday, the Browns accomplished one of the goals that I have been saying has been necessary for weeks. After one more game, Josh Gordon will be reinstated into the NFL. The worst-case scenario is that the Browns will be 6-4 then, but they could be 7-3 as well. In other words, they are guaranteed to be in the thick of the AFC North race. That’s a great thing, and another sign that the Browns could be headed toward their first winning season since 2007. Think of just how dangerous this team becomes with a receiving core that consists of Gordon, Cameron, Hawkins and Gabriel. Also, we keep saying that the running game needs to get more consistent, and the addition of Gordon will immediately help as teams will no longer be able to stack the box. That could mean plenty of open lanes for Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. I suppose the thing I am saying is this: The Browns’ season so far has already been a pretty fun ride, but the best could be yet to come. That’s a special feeling.

6. The Cleveland Cavaliers got a nice win last night after defeating the Denver Nuggets 110-101. After recording a franchise-record low of six assists in Wednesday’s loss to the Utah Jazz, the Cavaliers responded with a win that included plenty of ball movement. For the game, the Cavaliers recorded 25 assists, and seven players (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson) had double-digit scoring nights. While it’s still early, this was a nice glimpse of just fluid this team will be once every player starts to adapt to head coach David Blatt’s offense.

7. Speaking of the Cavaliers, take a look at James’ tweet this morning:

These are little things obviously, but how great is it to see these types of things? He clearly embraces his role as leader of the Cavaliers, and he also embraces his role as leader of this city. Now, more than ever, it’s so easy to get caught up in one game. While it’s true that the Cavaliers have looked less than stellar so far, we’re only five games into the season. Did no one believe James or Blatt this past offseason when they both said it would be a process? Yes, that was said to partially diffuse expectations, but it was also said because it’s accurate. At Christmas time, if the Cavaliers have still not figured everything out, then we have the right to start worrying.

8. The Cavaliers signed point guard Will Cherry this past week, and he made his debut last night against the Nuggets. While he only played three minutes, he’s a player that I am interested in watching develop. He played exceptionally well last season with the Canton Charge and with the Cavaliers in Summer League this offseason. He also had a stellar career at Montana that was predicated on efficiency. None of us should expect superstar-like performances, but this could be a player who is capable of helping the Cavaliers each night. In my Monday piece, I addressed how backup point guard remains an issue for the Cavaliers, and Cherry might be someone who can help. Perhaps I’m just sucker for an underdog, or perhaps I trust my eyes. With Cherry, it’s a bit of both, but it’s mostly the latter because I know what I saw this summer.

9. The Cleveland Indians received some exciting news this week when it was announced that Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley had both earned Silver Sluggers in the American League for their respective positions. Given that Corey Kluber will likely win the Cy Young Award, it seems hard to fathom that a team with two Silver Sluggers, an MVP candidate and the Cy Young front-runner could only muster an 85-77 record. Unfortunately, that was the case with the Indians this year though. Gomes’ and Brantley’s accomplishments would likely be remembered more if the team actually contended. Nonetheless, two Silver Sluggers is a big deal, so kudos to these two for their stellar 2014 campaigns.

10. As always, I implore you to follow @EvrybdyHatesCLE on Twitter. Also, consider giving us a like on Facebook. Trust me, just do it. We don’t bite.

You can contact Steve via email at orbaneks@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @orbaneks.

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