Weeden-to-Gordon could be special

Posted by Bernie Kosar on August 22, 2012 – 7:42 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

In the preseason, you don’t want to get too low, too negative on the rough stuff. And you don’t want to get too high, too positive on the good stuff.

But being 2-0 after going to Lambeau Field and giving a solid performance in every facet of the game – the starters, the backups, the beginning, the end, — is impressive. I hate to use the phrase “dominated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau,” but we did.

Marty Schottenheimer used to say a lot that winning breeds winning, losing breeds losing. To have the ability and the opportunity to have a positive experience and to learn from it and to have a good game like that for so many young players, you can’t help but be excited.

To see how Brandon Weeden throws that skinny post to Josh Gordon is incredible. Brandon hit one, Colt nicely hit one.

You can see that Josh was incredibly comfortable with his body and speed getting open, getting into that area and making the play. And with the new rules of not being able to hit a defenseless receiver, not making contact after five yards, I’m not sure how you stop that route.

I don’t want to put undo expectations or pressure on these guys, but I had the honor of playing with the Cowboys in 1993 and watching that era of Norv Turner, Ernie Zampese, Air Coryell, that family tree of throwing the football.

In those days, the Cowboys had Troy Aikman throwing to Michael Irvin on that skinny post that allowed them to dominate games. That got chunk plays that turned the field position.

It’s just awesome to watch, and I really believe Brandon Weeden could make that throw in his sleep and Josh Gordon is meant to run that route.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Early camp important for all players

Posted by Bernie Kosar on July 26, 2012 – 3:56 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

I don’t want to over-dramatize it, but I really believe in the benefits of these first few days and the early part of training camp, especially from a rookie standpoint.

If you’re Brandon Weeden, and you want to be a leader, and if you’re Trent Richardson and you want to have a strong year, I can’t over-emphasize how important it is for these guys to be in camp on time and get themselves feeling comfortable with their surroundings.

Beginning on Friday, when the full squad is in Berea, there will be a completely different tempo than what the rookies experienced during minicamps and OTAs. That’s true even for the veterans. The speed, the excitement, the pressure to perform, the desire to show that you belong, that this is your spot and that you deserve this position, is incredibly high.

Another hugely important factor is physical conditioning. And it’s fair to expect that the vast majority of players will arrive in good shape.

Twenty or 30 years ago, guys came to camp to get into shape, whereas now guys typically report in shape. And they should be reporting with a good grasp of the mental side of things. Yes, it’s only been basically a month since the OTAs and minicamps, but you really want to make sure you’ve retained your knowledge of the playbook.

These couple days before the veterans report is almost imperative for a young quarterback, such as Weeden, because he gets almost a refresher course on the terminology and other aspects of the playbook, so when the veterans are here, he has a nice command of the verbiage and he’s able to talk with the veterans and have a good understanding of the plays, calling plays in the huddle, the sight adjustments, and other nuances of the given plays. That way, when the veterans hear you talk, they know that you know what you’re talking about.

All of us are going to be paying so much attention to the wide receiver position, especially now with the arrival of Josh Gordon as a second-round pick in the supplemental draft. He reminds me so much of Greg Little because at this time last year, the same things that are being said about Gordon – about not having played in a year, not being in football shape, being someone who we’re wondering how he’ll handle things and how he’s going to catch on – were being said about Little.

Little is past that. And I’m a big believer that guys make a big jump, mentally and physically, between year one and year two. Little, who hadn’t played in college in his final season at North Carolina, ended up leading the team in catches last year. Now that he has a year under his belt, I look for him to really take another step towards another level of play-making.

And I think Josh Gordon could rely on guys like Greg Little to help accelerate his learning curve, how to handle getting back into the swing of things, and that will definitely have a correlation as to how successful our offense is with the young wide receivers.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Expect receivers to play better

Posted by Bernie Kosar on July 8, 2012 – 10:50 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

After a rough last year or two, the Browns’ wide receivers should have a chance to be better this season.

They’re going to have to show it on the field, of course, but there are reasons to believe they will improve for several reasons.

One is Greg Little’s maturity and growth into a dominant, No. 1 receiver. I’ll admit that I’m an optimist, but I do believe you develop a lot of maturity between your first and second year in the NFL. Little led the team in receptions as a rookie last season, and that was after not playing in his final year at North Carolina. He also was a running back for most of his football career, and was just really starting to learn the wide receiver position last year.

Another factor is the timing and accuracy of the quarterback’s throws. Recently, I was at an event with Brandon Weeden, and we were going over plays and going over concepts in the passing game. We talked about throwing the comeback versus eight-in-the-box, throwing the fade or the take-off versus press coverage, throwing the middle read or the deep fade versus Cover Two.

Those are types of throws that significantly stretch the field and open up things for other players. They open up the entire offense.

In addition, the receivers will be helped by the presence of Trent Richardson in the backfield. Richardson and the rest of the running game will force opponents to incorporate that seventh and eighth man in the box, thus resulting in one-on-one coverage outside.

And if Brandon can find a guy who he’s comfortable with throwing the comebacks and fades to, if Travis Benjamin is able to show his speed and beat press coverage, it significantly opens up the field and gives you just a lot of opportunities to attack defenses.

Yet another factor in allowing the wide receivers to perform better is our offensive line, which I really like. A good offensive line is incredibly helpful to the passing game because it will give the quarterback that extra half-second to throw the ball and the receivers that extra count to kind of work the coverage.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Finances symposium’s key lesson

Posted by Bernie Kosar on June 29, 2012 – 10:00 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

The NFL’s annual Rookie Symposium, which was held in Northeast Ohio this past week, is one instance where the league is doing absolutely the best it can to help players manage the most difficult aspect of their career: Management of finances.

But it also falls on the players, and the supposed family and friends around them, to help prevent the money problems and other issues that confront players from occurring.

I supposedly had a reputation of being smart, and I had my share of mistakes financially. A lot of it stems from the fact that, when you’re in your 20s, you’re so focused on sports and football and competition. My attitude was, “I just want to play football. I just want to be good at football.”

Unfortunately, I trusted some people – and they were my family and some friends – who wanted to hold the money and spend the money.

It’s tough on these rookies, because they want to play sports and sports are what they know. They want to trust their family and friends with their finances, yet their family and friends almost are never qualified to do that stuff.

But you want to be nice, you want to be loyal, you want to remember where you came from, so you let them do some things that they’ve never done before. With events like the Rookie Symposium, the league’s trying to warn players that, when you do things like that with people who aren’t experienced in that area, a lot of mistakes happen.

All these kids have family members who have access to them. They don’t mean to be selfish, but they want their stuff taken care of. And if you don’t do it, you feel bad, you’re distracted. They’re calling you at 7 a.m., and at midnight, and talking to you about it. And it takes away from your performance, it takes away from your ability to focus, to make the team, to play well.

At the end of the day, you’re a kid who wants to help out. And 90 percent of the guys end up helping, end up giving, end up trying to appease them and make things better for their family and friends around them so that they can just play football.

For me, it got to the point that you almost had to let them have it because it would buy you actually a few weeks of them not bothering you so that you could go play football. I see this still today, with some of the young players, where their posse, their family, are in the parking lot the second practice is over, waiting for them.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Best to keep ‘light switch’ on

Posted by Bernie Kosar on June 21, 2012 – 9:25 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

The time between now and the start of training camp is a test of the players’ ability to stay focused while also getting a little time to relax before putting on the pads and going through the next phase of preparing for the season.

This is especially true for the younger guys. Working out and staying in the game mentally not only are helpful to getting them ready to play their best, but they also help keep them from the distractions of all the new friends and family they have because this is their first chance at money. And sometimes, all of those additional people in their lives will tend to take them away from staying in shape, being ready for training camp, and being ready for preseason games.

For the undrafted free agents, it makes sense for them to be plugged in as much as possible during this so-called down time, to keep learning, to keep growing. They not only will help their chances of making the final roster, but also help the chances of the Browns being a better team.

The politically right thing to say and the easy thing to say is, yeah, you want get away from it for a little bit, but you continue to work out. The reality of it is that football – especially at age 22, 23, 24 – is so exciting. For me, it’s so fun, it’s so important, that I never let it go away. I never checked out. I never put the light switch off.

And the guys who put the light switch off and then think they’re going to flip the light switch on and they’re going to be at a hundred percent are wrong. It does not happen.

You have your whole life to relax and have fun. It’s not now, though. Now is about playing football. And even though it’s four or five weeks off, you still have to work out. You still have to think about your plays, your assignments, your details of assignment, the details of how you run your position.

I always tell the younger guys, “Yeah, you can relax and maybe tone it down some. But you can never check out and flip the light switch completely off.”

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Big job for backup quarterback

Posted by Bernie Kosar on June 16, 2012 – 4:08 am

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

There’s been a lot of discussion this week about how the Browns’ backup quarterback situation will shake out, on the presumption that rookie Brandon Weeden is eventually going to be named the starter.

You have a guy like Seneca Wallace, who is going on double-digit years in the league. And then you have a young guy like Colt McCoy, who has played some games and has shown an ability to lead a team and be able to make some plays and not make a lot of bad plays. That’s typically what you want out of your backup quarterback. And being very salary-cap friendly in his contract, that’s something you just have to look at.

Every team has its quarterback position basically solidified for this year, so the opportunity for any quarterback to have an opening to start right now isn’t really there. You really have to be on a team, be in the league, and do the best you can, whether you like it or not. So whether it’s Seneca or Colt, it might not be optimal for them, but still being able to be on a team and show that you can be a team guy and show you can contribute and show you’re ready and show you have an understanding of the offense is imperative. And because you don’t take the physical beating being an NFL backup, you can have extra years on the back end of your career.

If you have to play as a backup, it’s imperative that you’re capable of playing, executing plays, being productive, getting the ball in the end zone, and finishing out games with a W. But there are some situations you don’t end up playing a lot because the quarterback does not get hurt.

We used to have a phrase on some of the good teams I was on that went like this: “Let’s check our ego at the door.” That means when you come to work every day, let’s not make it about me or you. Let’s make it about us and the team. We all want to start. We all want to be on the field, especially at the quarterback position.

But if you can check your ego at the door and admirably and genuinely help the team and the other quarterback by giving him analysis, by giving him observations, by seeing things that, bluntly, a lot of times coaches and other players don’t see and a starting quarterback can’t see because he’s under siege with the rush and the pressure and things going on is so valuable. Gary Danielson did this for me. Don Strock did this for Dan Marino. I helped out Troy Aikman with this. I helped out Marino with this.

That’s a huge, huge help in terms of game day and, even sometimes more important, during the week when you’re breaking down your situations: Wednesday, first-and-10, second-and-long; Thursday, when you’re doing your third-and-three-to-six, third-and-seven-to-10, third-and-10-plus stuff, and your scoring-zone plays; Friday, when you’re trying to get your goal-line packages down, your two-minute drills.

The little things that veteran quarterbacks can see in film study and helping the less experienced starting quarterback understand film study and understand tendencies is incredibly valuable. And that’s the sort of help Brandon Weeden is going to need, especially as a rookie.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Balancing new offseason rules

Posted by Bernie Kosar on June 7, 2012 – 3:24 am

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

The new rules restricting the amount of time teams can spend practicing and meeting during the offseason shouldn’t have too large an impact on the Browns or any other NFL team.

If you can’t get it done in six hours in May or June in a day, you probably don’t have the ability to really get it done. So in terms of affecting the season, affecting getting ready for training camp, I don’t think it’s going to have a big effect on anybody.

Last year showed us that even with no minicamps, no OTAs, and no offseason workouts, you still had teams like Cincinnati with a rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton) and a rookie receiver (A.J. Green) having a fantastic year.

It comes down to the things you get accustomed to. Four or five years ago, teams were probably doing too much in the offseason. And last year probably wasn’t enough.

Now we’re just trying to find that middle ground.

The rules are the rules and sometimes – and I’ve used this phrase a fair amount – you have to protect players from themselves. Sometimes you have to protect the coaches from themselves, because coaches aren’t ever going to feel comfortable unless they have players 24/7, 365 days a year, and that’s not realistic.

You don’t want to overdo it and risk burnout, even though you can say, “Hey, looking on film it’s not physical.” You don’t want to overdo things in April, May, and June so you’re not reaching your peak too soon. I’ve seen guys reach their peak in July and August, but the time you want them peaking is in December and January.

It’s a balance.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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True test for Weeden is when it’s ‘live’

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 31, 2012 – 2:46 am

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

Early in my career at the University of Miami, Howard Schnellenberger told me something when I was competing against Vinny Testaverde that has stuck with me ever since.

“Physical tools are obviously great to have,” he said. “But the quarterback position is one position where, mentally, it’s really imperative that you have your game down and you understand how to react in the heat of battle; when you, at 220-230 pounds, are getting run over by that 300-pound guy and you understand how to make that 18-yard comeback throw, that 20-yard square-in throw on third-and-10, and be able to make those plays. Or more importantly, don’t make the bad plays under duress.”

That perspective is what comes to mind as I think about Brandon Weeden’s performance in Browns rookie minicamp and OTA practices. From a standpoint of just physical tools, it has been a very impressive start for him. But at the quarterback position, the true test is when it’s live. And between now and Sept. 9, the only get “live” situations you get is in those preseason games.

Now, if it turns out that Weeden looks as good in the preseason as he has during rookie minicamp and the OTA practices and is named the starter, where does that leave Colt McCoy?

If he ends up becoming a backup for the Browns or even for another team, that wouldn’t be the worst situation in the world. For a young guy, being on a team and being one of only 64 guys in the country who is working as a quarterback in the NFL, is hardly a bad thing.

You’re gaining experience and your body is not deteriorating from taking those excessive hits. If you deserve to be in the league and you can make plays, you will get those reps and those opportunities on the back side of your career, like Steve Young got.

Young wasn’t happy when he began his NFL career at Tampa, after playing in the USFL, and then spent several years not playing behind Joe Montana in San Francisco. But because he wasn’t taking a pounding and his body didn’t get broken down, he was able to get those years back.

He handled himself the right way, he conducted himself the right way. More importantly, he learned the game and learned how to make plays and when he got his chance he made the most of it.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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During OTAs, it’s all about the details

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 22, 2012 – 6:36 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are some highlights from my latest appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

The OTA workouts that the Browns began Tuesday are vital to their preparation for the season in a number of different ways.

And you appreciate the importance of these sessions so much more now after going through an offseason like last year, when you weren’t able to have them because of the lockout.

I think the main part of this stuff – especially this early, in late May and early June – is the ability to really learn the nuances of the offensive system and the details of the assignments of your given position.

As a quarterback, it starts with your sense of timing from under center, something that Brandon Weeden’s trying to get better at given that he was in the shotgun so much in college. It’s getting to throw that 12-yard speed out off a five-step drop from under center. It’s throwing against a top-notch NFL cornerback like Joe Haden, as opposed to an undrafted rookie free-agent defensive back that he saw during rookie minicamp. I think it’s also very important that he develops that rapport with his receivers.

I think, from the outset, you’d like to see some rapport between all of the quarterbacks and the receivers.

For Trent Richardson, not that it’s a live session with contact, but you can see how he handles and understands pass routes, pass protections, things of that nature.

With Travis Benjamin, a lot was said about his speed at rookie minicamp. Is he able to transfer that while going up against Joe Haden? And when he gets more of the offense and more plays, is he able to understand that? Is he able to handle press coverage?

We’re just expecting Mitchell Schwartz to just step in and start at right tackle. But is he able to handle the speed of NFL pass rushers? And for all of the offensive linemen, it’s all about footwork and angles.

Those little details of assignments and the mental part are the main things that most players and coaches want to get out of these OTAs.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Minicamp provides confirmation of picks’ skills

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 16, 2012 – 2:59 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are some highlights from my latest appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

It didn’t surprise me that Brandon Weeden had such a solid minicamp in terms of throwing the ball.

And, of course, you can’t forget that it is a non-contact environment and that a lot more goes into playing quarterback, or any position, when it’s live and the hitting’s going on.  But just in terms of being able to show confidence, show his ability to throw the ball, show his ability to handle some of things he’ll see from different teams and read defenses, I thought he performed exceptionally well.

Even without contact, Trent Richardson was able to display his potential to be a top-tier, workhorse back. That was something we saw with Peyton Hillis a few years ago when he had his magical season. He had the ability to come in contact with a defender and break the tackle and make yards after that.

Not to over-glorify or over-hype it, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that anybody in college football in the last couple years has run like Trent Richardson. He shows that rare ability to break tackles and get those yards after contact, which is now becoming an incredibly important statistic and quality that you look for with running backs.

You go into these minicamps hoping to see on your own practice field what you saw of these draft picks during their college careers, especially the high picks. So, from that standpoint, it’s just nice to kind of get confirmation of that in real life with your playbook, with your plays, doing it in your situation.

The other nice thing is seeing the guys’ intensity – intensity to play, intensity to be part of this team now, to pick up the offense and defense, and make the plays that you’re used to seeing or you expect to see come Sunday afternoon in the fall. And that was the case throughout all three days of minicamp.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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