Sunday, July 31, 2005

Notre Dame Football Preview was nice enough to name this site one of their favorite ND blogs in their recent list of Notre Dame football previews. So, I figured it would only be proper for me to actually write a preview of the 2005 Irish team.


Spotlight: Brady Quinn

Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy
Also Returning: David Wolke
Lost: Pat Dillingham (graduation)
Gained: Darrin Bragg, Justin Gillett (redshirts), Dan Gorski, Evan Sharpley (freshmen), Marty Mooney (transfer from Yale)

There's no quarterback controversy here - Quinn is the man. The only question is, who will be his backup? Last season, Wolke got a few scraps of playing time, while Darrin Bragg redshirted (perhaps Bragg was too tired from being a 35-year-old outfielder to play football last year). Joining them will be Yale transfer Marty Mooney, the Morrissey resident who led the Manorites to a dorm football championship and threw himself a touchdown pass in this year's Blue and Gold game.

Running Back

Spotlight: Darius Walker

Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy
Also Returning: Justin Hoskins, Jeff Jenkins, John Lyons, Travis Thomas
Lost: Ryan Grant (graduation)
Gained: None

Walker may be a great back, but he's not going to last the season if a #2 guy can't step in to spell him on a reliable basis. Hoskins is full of talent, but didn't see much playing time in the backfield last season. Some speculated that it was due to his lack of development as a pass blocker. Travis Thomas will have to find a cure for last season's fumbilitis before hoping to get any playing time this season.


Spotlight: Rashon Powers-Neal

Courtesy AP/Joe Raymond
Also Returning: Ashley McConnell (suspended for 2004)
Lost: Josh Schmidt (graduation), Nate Schiccatano (position change)
Gained: Matt Augustyn (walk on?), Asaph Schwapp (freshman)

Josh Schmidt is probably kicking himself right now. As a great receiving fullback, he would have thrived in a Charlie Weis system. Former running back RPN also learned to catch last season, hauling in 10 passes. He should look forward to being utilized to the fullest of his potential this season.

Wide Receiver

Spotlight: Maurice Stovall
Also Returning: Chase Anastasio, Brandon Harris, Rhema McKnight, Michael O'Hara, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Shelton, Rob Woods
Lost: Carlyle Holiday (graduation), Chris Vaughn (suspended; will transfer to Louisville)
Gained: Brandon Erickson, Nick Possley (walk ons?), David Grimes, DJ Hord (freshmen)

What? Rhema McKnight isn't the spotlight receiver? Well, we already know what McKnight can do. This year, the light will shine brightly on Maurice Stovall. After appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, well... if Stovall didn't get negative attention over the past two years, he wouldn't have gotten any attention at all. However, his troubles may have been more coaching-based than talent-based. For the longest time, ND's old staff tried to use Stovall's 6-5 height in jump-ball situations, and he failed almost every time. However, once he started to run other "normal" routes, Stovall began to show glimpses of the talent that garnered him so much praise coming into ND. Even though he had trouble pulling down jump balls, Stovall still was able to use his size to his advantage. On screen plays, he is simply too big and too tough to be taken down by most defensive backs in single coverage. Utilized properly, Maurice Stovall can be a big threat this year. Two other receivers are key returnees for this offense. Matt Shelton has returned for a fifth year, and he'll look to continue to be a deep threat (and not a make-people-miss guy). Jeff Samardzija, while not a starter, has always been a favorite target of Brady Quinn's, and he has often served as a reliable third down converter.

Tight End

Spotlight: Anthony Fasano

Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy
Also Returning: John Carlson, Marcus Freeman
Lost: Billy Palmer, Jerome Collins (graduation)
Gained: Tim Gritzman, Mike Talerico (walk ons or reshirts?), Joey Hiben (freshman)

Offensive Line

Spotlight: Ryan Harris

Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy
Also Returning: John Sullivan, Scott Raridon, JJ Jansen, James Bonelli, Bob Morton, Dan Santucci, Dan Stevenson, James Bent, David Fitzgerald, Mark LeVoir, Brian Mattes
Lost: Jaime Ryan, Jeff Thompson (graduation)
Gained: Dan Hickey (walk on?), Chauncey Incarnato (redshirt), Paul Duncan, Jeff Tisak, Michael Turkovich (freshmen)

The Notre Dame offensive line has followed a familiar cycle over the past few years: A new line would come in, grow and gain experience, then graduate as a unit. Then, five new, inexperienced guys would have to step into the starting lineup and suffer the same growing pains before growing together into a cohesive, experienced unit. Hopefully, that trend is coming to and end. Notre Dame comes into this year with a line that is on the "experienced but ready to graduate" end (in fact, all 5 starters from last year are returning), but fortunately the players are more spread out age-wise. Mark LeVoir and Dan Stevenson are 5th years, Bob Morton is a senior, and Ryan Harris and John Sullivan are only juniors. Hopefully, with the addition of redshirt super-recruit Chauncey Incarnato, this unit will be good this year, and also avoid a dry spell/rebuilding year in the near future.

Defensive Line

Spotlight: Derek Landri

Courtesy AP/Wade Payne
Also Returning: Victor Abiamiri, Chris Frome, Trevor Laws, Brian Beidatsch, Dan Chervanick
Lost: Travis Leitko? (name removed from roster without comment), Justin Tuck, Greg Pauly, Kyle Budinscak (graduation)
Gained: Dwight Stephenson (position change/suspended for 2004), Patrick McInerney, Neil Kennedy (walk ons or redshirts?), Brandon Nicholas, Ronald Talley, Justin Brown (redshirts), Derrell Hand, Pat Kuntz (freshmen)

For the second straight year, the defensive line will have to deal with large losses due to graduation. This year, 3/4 of the starters are gone. Derek Landri, who stepped it up as Ced Hilliard's replacement at nose guard last year, will look to once again anchor this line as the lone returning starter. Victor Abiamiri has shown flashes of being a great all-around player over the past two years; this year, he'll get a chance as a starter to show what he can really do. Defensive end/special teamer Travis Leitko has been removed from the roster without comment. Without him, the last two starting spots will come down to seniors Chris From and Brian Beidatsch, and very talented junior Trevor Laws (expect big things from him this year, if he gets the playing time). Joining the line this year is former linebacker Dwight Stephenson, who impressed at both end and tackle in the spring. Without Leitko, Stephenson may be needed at end more than anything - at 270 pounds, Frome is more of a tackle playing end, and Abiamiri is the only other player with experience there.


Spotlight: Brandon Hoyte

Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy
Also Returning: Joseph Boland, Nick Borseti, Joe Brockington, Casey Cullen, Corey Mays, Anthony Salvador, Mitchell Thomas
Lost: Derrek Curry, Mike Goolsby (graduation)
Gained: Nate Schiccatano (position change), Abdel Banda, Maurice Crum, Jr. (redshirts), Steve Quinn, Scott Smith, Kevin Washington (freshmen)

The linebacker position was also hit hard by graduation. Last year, there was little to no depth behind the three starters, and now two of those starters are gone. Hard-hitting Brandon Hoyte had a good year last year, and he will have to be the man this year. Projected starters Corey Mays and Joe Brockington saw token playing time last year - one would wonder if that was to prepare them for this year more than anything. Key backups for this unit include fullback bust Nate Schiccatano and recruiting studs Maurice Crum and Scott Smith. Of course, this all assumes that Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter doesn't go with the Apache look, where the third linebacker is replaced by a hybrid linebacker/safety, such as hard-hitting former receiver Chinedum Ndukwe or Anthony Vernaglia, who is listed as a safety on the roster but has the size of a linebacker. The staff didn't show the Apache look at the Blue and Gold game, but that doesn't mean it isn't a possibility come September.


Spotlight: Tom Zbikowski

Courtesy AP/Al Goldis
GTacklesINTFum Rec
Also Returning: Chinedum Ndukwe, Freddie Parish IV
Lost: Quentin Burrell (graduation)
Gained: Anthony Vernaglia (redshirt)
(Note: All players given the generic designation "defensive back" are listed below with the cornerbacks.)

This unit isn't a group of safeties so much as it is a group of small, athletic linebackers. The best speed/cover guy is Freddie Parish, and he appears to have the free safety position locked up. Zbikowski, Ndukwe, and Vernaglia are all tough-as-nails tacklers. Assuming Ndukwe's cover skills have come along since his position change, all three of these players have the talent to play Apache linebacker or either safety position. Zbikowski will be the starter, but expect Rick Minter to find ways to get the other two their share of playing time.


Spotlight: Mike Richardson
Also Returning: Matt Mitchell, Ambrose Wooden, LaBrose Hedgemon II, Rich Whitney III
Lost: Dwight Ellick, Carlos Campbell, Prestion Jackson (graduation)
Gained: Tim Kenney, Bret Shapot, William David Williams, Wade Iams, Alvin Reynolds (walk ons?), Junior Jabbie, Terrail Lambert, Leo Ferrine (redshirts), David Bruton, Ray Herring, Kyle McCarthy (freshmen)

Mike Richardson is in the spotlight for this preview, and he will be in the spotlight all season as well. Richardson finally got a fair amount of playing time last year, and more often than not he caused Irish fans across the country to curse at their TV screens. As of right now, he's the "A" corner, and he will have to play like it against a tough schedule. Across from Richardson is former receiver Ambrose Wooden. Perhaps more talent than polish right now, Wooden will have to prove that he's earned his starting role. Knocking on the door behind Richardson and Wooden are three very talented redshirt freshmen, Junior Jabbie and Terrail Lambert - who could be starters by the end of the year - and Leo Ferrine. Showing this unit's lack of experience and talent, no less than five defensive back walk ons have been added to the roster. It will be up to Rick Minter to out-scheme his talent on the corners.


Spotlight: DJ Fitzpatrick

Courtesy AP/Bill Kostroun
Also Returning: Craig Cardillo, Carl Gioia, Bobby Renkes
Lost: None
Gained: None

DJ Fitzpatrick continued to develop as a quality place kicker on a team that did not, and still does not, have any kickers who began their college careers on scholarship. As with last year, Fitzpatrick will most likely be spelled on kickoffs by one of the other three kickers to save his own leg. That is, of course, assuming those three reserve kickers can show they have the leg strength for the job - unlike many times last year.


Spotlight: Fitzpatrick
GNoAvgIn 20
Also Returning: Geoffrey Price
Lost: None
Gained: None

Originally a placekicker, DJ took large steps as a punter in 2004. Watching him last year, you would have thought that Fitzpatrick was recruited as a scholarship punter. Instead, coming into college, "I could kick farther than him," said one former female manager at ND. It's a good thing Fitzpatrick has developed into such a reliable punter, too, as rumors have long swirled that the highly-touted Geoff Price has continued to be less than impressive in practices.

2005 Schedule

9-3-05 at Pittsburgh
9-10-05 at Michigan
9-24-05 at Washington
10-1-05 at Purdue
11-12-05 NAVY
11-19-05 SYRACUSE
11-26-05 at Stanford

Predicted Wins Legend (final record in parentheses)
Even ND haters say we will win these games (5-6)
Pessimistic bandwagon ND fan's view (6-5)
Pessimistic non-bandwagon ND fan says we'll lose one of these two (7-4); a certain optimistic ND blogger says we'll win both (8-3)
True fans go into every game thinking their team has a shot to win (11-0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Beisbol Clasic Del Mundo

Group B: Games Played in the US (Arizona or Florida)


CF Johnny Damon
3B Alex Rodriguez (Hank Blalock)
1B Derrek Lee
LF Barry Bonds
DH Mark Teixeira
RF Gary Sheffield (Ken Griffey, Jr.)
C Jason Varitek
SS Michael Young
2B Brian Roberts

First of all, let me start by saying that I based the US team largely on this year's performances to date. So, you may disagree with a few picks here, but so be it. You may notice a few names in parentheses in this lineup. A-Rod (would rather play for the Dominican) and Shef (doesn't want to play in something "made up" unless he's getting paid) are out. In their place are two capable replacements: Blalock and Griffey. Once again, Morgan Ensberg gets screwed over. As for Griffey, he's one of those locks. I'm batting Damon leadoff because Young and Roberts have more ability to drive in runs. One the US has been through the lineup a few times, they'll basically have three leadoff guys hitting before the heart of the order, anyways. Derrek Lee and Mark Teixeira are both having big years; Lee's Gold Gloves put him in the field and Teixeira at DH. Bonds hits cleanup (duh), and the veteran Varitek rounds out a powerful offense.

C Mike Piazza
IF Jeff Kent
OF Carl Crawford
DH Travis Hafner

Piazza's another absolute lock to make this team. Jeff Kent can play first, second, and third, so he's the utility infielder (screw you, Jeter). I'm taking Crawford's speed on the bases (and higher average) over Torii Hunter's defense. Finally, since I can, Travis Hafner is my power lefty off the bench. I can afford to take Hafner, who can only play DH and 1B, because Teixeira has had experience at first, second, third, and the corner outfield spots.

SP Roger Clemens
SP John Smoltz
SP Roy Oswalt
SP Roy Halladay
SP Dontrelle Willis

The rotation is a bit righty-heavy (Willis is the lone southpaw), but I don't think anyone will complain. Clemens is a lock, and I'm going to say Smoltz is, too. Theoretically, you may want to see Glavine and/or Maddox out there, but you can't take away from the success Oswalt and Halladay are currently enjoying. Willis, meanwhile, is very fired up about the prospect of making this team, so we'll give him the nod.

RP Chris Carpenter
RP Billy Wagner
RP Brad Lidge
RP Huston Street
RP BJ Ryan
RP Joe Nathan
CP Jason Isringhausen

I originally had Chris Carpenter in the rotation with Smoltz as another member of the firing squad of closers. But, instead I decided to go with Carpenter as the long man. The vastly underrated Jason Isringhausen will close. Wagner and Lidge were foregone conclusions. The last three spots came down to Street, Ryan, Nathan, and Dustin Hermanson. I went with Street for the Gammonsesque factor (he's easily this year's Brad Lidge), Ryan to add another lefty to the pen, and Nathan as a hat-tip to the quiet dominance he's been enjoying in Minnesota.


SS Jorge Cantu
2B Juan Castro
3B Vinny Castilla
1B Erubiel Durazo
LF Karim Garcia
DH Alfredo Amezaga
C Geronimo Gil
LF Luis Garcia
CF Benji Gil

Mexico's lineup looks line Pinch-Hitter's Anonymous. Jorge Cantu is quietly having a very good rookie season for Tampa Bay. Castro has been a valuable part of the Twins' defense this year, and Vinny Castilla has continued to produce for Washington. (Did you know: Castilla's backup at third for the Nationals is none other than Carlos Baerga. You can't make this up.) Oriole backup catcher and the cup-of-coffee Luis Garcia are surrounded by a pair of former Angels utility infielders to round out the bottom of the lineup.

C Miguel Ojeda
C Humberto Cota

Well, at least Mexico won't have any trouble finding people to warm up pitchers in the bullpen.

SP Ismael Valdez
SP Rodrigo Lopez
SP Oliver Perez
SP Juan Acevedo
SP Esteban Loaiza

I can't tell whether or not I'm intimidated by this rotation. It's probably good enough for a Major League team contending in a crappy division, but it's definitely not good enough to face a US all-star squad.

RP Luis Ayala
RP Elmer Dessens
RP Oscar Villareal
RP Rigo Beltran
RP Dennys Reyes
RP Ricardo Rincon
CP Antonio Osuna

Again, not a great bullpen, but not all that bad. Reyes, Rincon, and Osuna are definitely Major League quality, as are Ayala and Dessens to some extent. Osuna gets the closer's spot by virtue of his 21 career saves.


LF Aaron Guiel
RF Larry Walker
CF Jason Bay
1B Justin Morneau
SS Corey Koskie
DH Matt Stairs
2B Danny Klassen
3B Cody McKay
C Pete LaForest

This is a very scary lineup in any pool except this one. Then again, if the US falls asleep, look out. Aaron Guiel has had a very quiet career in Kansas City, but he does have leadoff experience, so that's where he'll bat. He's just the start of a very lefty-heavy lineup (only Bay and McKay bat right handed). The talented Larry Walker will take his familiar position batting second and playing right. Why is Jason Bay batting third? Well, as the sponsor of his Baseball Reference page puts it, "he'll make us [Pirates fans] forget about Giles and Bonds." Three slugging lefties follow in the forms of Morneau, the Twin first baseman, Koskie, currently with Toronto, and DH Matt Stairs of the Royals. Former Devil Rays super-prospect Danny Klassen will bat seventh, followed by cup-of-coffee guys Cody McKay and Pete LaForest.

OF Simon Pond

Another cup-of-coffee, Pond will be the lone Major Leaguer (or former Major Leaguer) on Canada's bench.

SP Rich Harden
SP Eric Bedard
SP Jeff Francis
SP Ryan Dempster
SP Adam Loewen

This rotation gets the official Peter Gammons seal of approval. Rich Harden is starting to make the leap from Gammonsesque name to household name. The young Eric Bedard was having an All-Star quality, breakout season for Baltimore before the injury bug bit. Jeff Francis has all the makings of a star, if he can just find a way out of Colorado. At 28, Dempster is the old man of this rotation. Finally, as if having Bedard and Rodrigo Lopez (above) wasn't enough for the Orioles, their prized prospect (a Baseball America Top 100 guy, of course), is perhaps the best pitcher in the minors right now. That would be the young Adam Loewen.

RP Rheal Cormier
RP Jesse Crain
RP Eric Cyr
RP Chris Mears
RP Shawn Hill
RP Aaron Myette
CP Eric Gagne

Not a very deep bullpen, but it does have some strong points. Cormier is an established veteran who can get the job done. Gagne, when healthy, can be the best closer in baseball. And Jesse Crain, currently a set up man with the Twins, is said to have all the tools to become a star closer some day. You know, between that lineup, the good young rotation, and the few bullpen studs, this is a team that can really challenge in this pool if the Americans take things too lightly.

South Africa

No active Major Leaguers. Well, at least they can enjoy the free trip and a chance to play against the world's best while they're still in the tournament.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Browns Position Preview #5: Defensive Back and Special Teams

Defensive Back

33 Daylon McCutcheon
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)121055505210
Career (6 years)8780375303721045
If you've read any press on Daylon McCutcheon recently, you know this bit of trivia: McCutcheon and Phil Dawson are the only two members of the 1999 "re-inaugural" season still with the Browns. That doesn't necessarily mean he's that good (as Anthony Henry, who left to free agency) or too bad (Tim Couch and countless others). It does mean he's loyal, though. The Browns have been loyal to him as well. Through coaching changes and countless personnel upgrades and downgrades, McCutcheon has remained a starter in Cleveland's defensive backfield. This season marks his seventh straight year in that role.

27 Brian Russell FS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Minnesota)1616111743718
Career (3 years)4834222168541118
How's this for a story to inspire young defensive backs. Brian Russell signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2001, but did not see any playing time that year. In 2002, he worked his way onto the team and appeared in all 16 games. Given a chance to start in 2003, he broke out, recording 95 tackles and 9 interceptions. In contrast, the 1 interception he had in 2004 caused critics to call him washed up, despite the 111 tackles. Brian Russell still has something left in him. Also in him, coach Romeo Crennel has a shining example of a guy who's had to work for everything he's received.

26 Sean Jones SS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)0000000
Career (1 year)0000000
After trading an arm and a leg (and his second round pick) for the rights to draft Kellen Winslow in the first round of the 2004, Butch Davis turned around and traded his other arm and leg for a second round pick that year. That second round pick, by luck, was safety Sean Jones, who never made it out of August before being placed in the Injured Reserve. The Georgia standout is back this year, though, and with the release of Robert Griffith and Earl Little, Jones will be out to prove that he has the talent to be the Browns' starting strong safety.

24 Gary Baxter CB/S
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Baltimore)161686788114
Career (4 years)544628224141551
When shopping for free agents defensive backs, why not take from one of the best defenses in the league? Gary Baxter was a starter for Baltimore for the past three years, averaging 94 tackles a season. Another versatile athlete, Baxter played both cornerback and safety for the Ravens.

30 Antonio Perkins CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Oklahoma U)1133221111
Career (Oklahoma U)473012592331121
There are two ways to build talent at a position: through free agency, and through the draft. Brian Russell and Gary Baxter are examples of building talent through free agency. Antonio Perkins is just one of several examples of building talent through the draft. What once was a shallow, unproven, injury-laden defensive backfield is now deep with proven ability and young, raw talent. Perkins, Cleveland's fourth round pick in 2005, will look to step right into the nickel back role this year. The speedster (4.31 second 40-yard dash) will also be used as a return specialist. In four years at Oklahoma, Antonio Perkins returned eight punts to the end zone, a school record.

39 Michael Lehan CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)1021512301
Career (2 years)2243630603
Michael Lehan has spent most of his career as a backup and special teamer. That's mainly a testament to his ability as - you guessed it - an all-around athlete. Lehan was a running back, returner, and track star while in high school in Minnesota.

21 Brodney Pool FS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Oklahoma U)1395652729
Career (Oklahoma U)3917111358915
Why take a safety in the second round of this year's draft when you already have two? As in the first round, General Manager Phil Savage went with a "best player available" strategy. Brodney Pool entered the NFL draft after his junior season at Oklahoma. Had he stayed there another year, some experts predict that he would have become a top-10 overall pick. Savage obviously found that talent too good to pass up. This year, Pool will back up Brian Russell as he adjusts to the NFL game. But, who knows? By next year, he may be ready to run onto the field as a member of the starting eleven.

25 Chris Crocker S/CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)12561441615
Career (2 years)28689701817
Originally a cornerback, Chris Crocker proved he was too good to keep out of the starting lineup. As soon as Earl Little slipped, Butch Davis siezed the opportunity to move Crocker into the starting lineup as a safety. Crocker responded with 64 tackles, his first career interception, and his first two career sacks. With a new pool of talent in Cleveland's secondary, Chris Crocker will once again start this year on the bench. But, if his past performance means anything, he will have worked his way onto the playing field in no time.

28 Leigh Bodden CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)8198100
Career (2 years)2122118313
Leigh Bodden has been used occasionally as a nickel back in his last two seasons with Cleveland. With the talent he's looking up at on the depth chart this year, Bodden can be thankful that he's also a special teams ace. The former Duquesne long jumper lead the Browns in 2004 with 18 special teams tackles.

22 Michael Jameson SS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)1601512300
Career (4 years)4212823511
Primarily a special teamer, Michael Jameson has also seen time at safety on nickel sets. The high school basketball and track star played in 31 of 32 games for the Browns from 2003-2004, showing how valuable he was to Butch Davis' coaching staff. This year, Michael Jameson will try to prove that he can be just as valuable to Romeo Crennel's coaching staff.

35 Dyshod Carter CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (ArizonaCleveland)1101411302
Career (4 years)1601613302
Dyshod Carter is in his second tour of duty with the Browns. After ending the 2001 season with the Browns, Carter spent time in NFL Europe and on New England's practice squad. Carter started 2004 with the Cardinals. Following his release, he played five games for the Browns at cornerback and on special teams.

29 Michael Grant CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)0000000
Career (1 year)0000000
Michael Grant signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2004, but was placed on the Injured Reserve at the end of training camp. After spending time at Grambling and Georgia Southern, Grant finished his college career at Division II Mars Hill College in North Carolina. There, he played cornerback and occasionally returned punts. There's more to Michael Grant than football, too. Grant is active in his home church. A licensed minister, he established a youth group at the River of Life Church, complete with a recreational lounge for teens in that youth group.

43 James King S/CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Central Michigan)1079483104
Career (Central Michigan)45408
An all-around athlete, and somewhat a homegrown talent, James King went to Central Michigan after playing football, basketball, and track in high school. While a Chippewa, King put up some impressive numbers. For his career, he had 408 tackles and 10 blocked kicks. Of those 10 blocked kicks, 8 came in 2001, and 4 of those were blocked punts in a single game against Michigan State. "Impressive" doesn't begin to describe a feat like that.

Special Teams

4 Phil Dawson K
2004 (Cleveland)1624/2982.85028/28100100
Career (7 years)92108/13281.852151/15597.4475
Phil Dawson has been the Browns' kicker for the past six years, and things aren't going to change any time soon. Dawson set a franchise record with 27 straight field goals made between October of 2003 and November of 2004. However, once he missed one, his concentration was lost. After starting the year 22-for-22, Dawson ended it 2-for-7. Nonetheless, he tied a career high with 100 points. A proven veteran, Phil Dawson should have his confidence back in 2005, and once again he will be a dependable NFL placekicker.

2 Tyler Jones K
2004 (Boise State)24-2788.94869/7098.6141
Career (Boise State)46156249
When the Browns were looking for an insurance policy for Phil Dawson, they checked the Bears' waiver wire. It was then that they signed the recently released Nick Setta of Notre Dame. Setta, however, showed in NFL Europe that his leg was not made for kicking off from the 30 yard line. So, the Browns checked the Bears' waiver wire a few weeks later and found Tyler Jones. The Browns then released Setta and signed Jones, the undrafted rookie out of Boise State. Jones did have 36 touchbacks as a senior for the Broncos, but his longest field goal was "only" 48 yards. There is an outside chance that Jones can make the team as a kickoff specialist to rest Phil Dawson's leg, but that will all depend on how the other roster spots are filled.

10 Kyle Richardson P
GPuntsYdsAvgLongTBInside 20
2004 (Cincinnati)0000.0000
Career (8 years)9649420,30841.16749160
A veteran of the AFC North - and several other teams for that matter - Kyle Richardson missed the 2004 season after injuring a bicep while trying to make a tackle in a preseason game. (We know he's tough, at least.) After averaging 42 yards per punt or more from 1997-1999, Richardson has struggled to keep a season average above 40. However, he does consistently put balls inside the 20. He still can boom the occasional punt as well, with end-of-year longs that average 60 yards.

3 Derrick Frost P
GPuntsYdsAvgLongTBInside 20
2004 (Cleveland)168531640.054424
Career (2 years)168531640.054424
I'll paraphrase something I read about Derrick Frost in the newspaper the other day: a young, inexperienced punter can be excused for one seven-yard punt (as he had against Baltimore in a key situation last November). The problem was that Frost never seemed to recover psychologically from that. Perhaps the blame lies with Butch Davis, who refused to resign veteran Chris Gardocki, often team MVP during Cleveland's recent "lean years"; instead going with a punter who had never seen NFL action before, just to save a little cap space. After the end of last season, Derrick Frost will basically need a miracle summer to beat out Kyle Richardson and make the team.

64 Ryan Pontbriand LS
2004 (Cleveland)16110
Career (2 years)32633
Drafting a long snapper out of Rice in the fifth round can make you look like a genius or an idiot. Following the 2002 season, everyone was talking about long snappers, especially after a botched field goal snap cost the New York Giants their season. You don't know how important they are until you have a bad one, was the gist of what everyone was saying. The Giants signed the Browns' long snapper as a free agent that year, so the Browns took long snapper Brian Pontbriand in the third round of the 2003 draft. On a championship caliber team, where attention to details is of the utmost importance, that is a genius move (similarly, the Patriots used their first round pick in 2005 on a no-named guard from Fresno State, as they needed someone to replace Joe Andruzzi). However, on a team with as many holes as the 2002/2003 Browns had, that move made Butch Davis once again look like he didn't have the mental capacity to be anywhere near an NFL draft. With all that said, Ryan Pontbriand has been a solid player in his two years with the Browns.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ramblings? It's about time!

OK, so I've had these sitting in a file on my computer for so long, most of them aren't even topical any more. So, here goes.

  • The website of Notre Dame's Polish Club is I'm not kidding - check it out! When I found that out, it was easily the highlight of my day.

  • Former NFL coach Hank Stram died recently (at least it was recent at the time I came up with this rambling). Stram was actually Terry Brennan's backfield coach at ND from 1957-58.

  • My favorite moment from baseball's All Star Game this year. On the Baseball Tonight prior to the Home Run Derby, Peter Gammons repeated this phrase - rather excitedly, I might add - at least three times: "Baseball has always mirrored American immigration patterns." I have to find a way to turn that into a catch phrase.

  • My thoughts on Rafael Palmeiro's Hall of Fame status, blatantly taken from the message board, because I'm lazy like that:
    I agree that, as of right now, 500 home runs doesn't look like it will always be an automatic ticket into the HOF. But with the "end of the steroids era," maybe that change back again.

    The rest of my argument is basically similar to Pete's. So, he never got media attention. Is that his fault, or the media's for not recognizing a great player? Does he have to hold out or demand a trade to a big city just to get attention? No. But, you know, Eddie Murray never was a media darling. Murray is one of only a handful of players in the 3000/500 club, a club that Palmeiro soon will join. Plus, Murray was primarily a DH. Palmeiro has won three gold gloves (OK, so those may be "attention to a good hitter" gold gloves like A-Rod has been getting, but you'll have to bring me tapes of those years to get me to change my mind). All this guy did was quietly go out and play baseball year after year. That's all Cal Ripken did; Palmeiro just took a few more days off. You can argue that his numbers are simply a product of longevity. But, with a career batting average of .289 (and a career OPS of .889), I'd have to argue that his longevity is a product of being able to keep putting up good numbers.

    The one thing that would hold me back is the steriods issue. I was watching an Indians-O's game a couple weeks ago, and the announcer mentioned that this year Palmeiro has gone back to more of a simple line drive swing, as he used in his earlier years, instead of the power swing he'd been using as of late. The announcer's reason was that Palmeiro was more concerned now about the 3000 point mark than just home runs. Maybe that's true, or maybe that's a sign that he juiced for a period of time. I'm not accusing him, because I have no proof.

    Mike, will I tell my grandkids about him? Well, if I ever take them to Cooperstown, or they pull a baseball card out of an old dusty box and ask "who's the guy with the great pimpstache," I'll tell them that Palmeiro had probably the most effortless swing you'll ever see.

    As for Dave - are you sure you're not just bitter that Palmeiro went to college instead of signing with the Mets out of HS after the '82 draft?

  • Mini video game rant: After not producing an NCAA basketball game for the Gamecube, EA Sports has also stopped making NCAA football for the Nintendo platform. I was seriously considering trading in my Gamecube and all its games for a used PS2, until I saw that Blockbuster's Gamerush only pays out $25 to buy back a Gamecube. Also in video game news, the MVP Baseball franchise will reportedly be done after this year, several years after EA's Triple Play series was stopped. Also, ESPN has bought exclusive video game rights from the NFL Player's Association. This legally means that EA can no longer produce Madden games with real player names, pictures, and stats. Rumor has it that the Madden franchise, or EA itself, will look to combine with ESPN Video Games to produce future Madden games under ESPN's name. Of course, I heard this news before Madden agreed to sign on with NBC, so I'm not sure what will become of the world's favorite video game franchise.

  • Sure to be Dave and Mike's desktop wallpaper, if it isn't already: the Division IA football helmet map.

  • Finally, news that I just picked up mere minutes ago. Not only is Boat Club officially gone, but Heartland is now under new ownership. The new name is "Club Fever." The name change is unfortunate, as now even less people will get my jokes about the "Heartland Express" semis on I-80. Hey, as long as they keep the dancing beer girls, they can call it whatever they want.
    Update: WNDU story here.

World Baseball Classic will return next week, along with another Browns preview. I'm running a little behind, I know, but I've almost been pretending to have a social life lately. Lord knows that won't last long....

Browns Position Preview #4: Defensive Line and Linebacker

Defensive Line

99 Orpheus Roye DE
2004 (Cleveland)151455252821
Career (9 years)136974252731442114
Coach Romeo Crennel came in and made major changes to the Cleveland defensive line. In came the 3-4 defense, and out went most of the overpaid, underperforming flotsam. Now that the dust has settled - momentarily at least - it appears that returning starter and nine-year NFL veteran Orpheus Roye will be the unofficial captain of this revamped unit.

95 Jason Fisk NT
2004 (San Diego)151301911-1
Career (10 years)15094450254196-19
How do you shore up a relatively young and inexperienced unit without much depth? Sign a proven veteran like Jason Fisk to be the man in the middle. Fisk was a starter for Tennessee and San Diego from 1999-2003. Fisk should already have experience playing in a 3-4 defense, as that's what the Chargers have used over the past few seasons.

97 Alvin McKinley DE
2004 (Cleveland)16260302733
Career (5 years)522133696143
While Orpheus Roye's experience may make him the unofficial defensive line captain, it was Alvin McKinley who had the best 2004 season stats-wise of any returning lineman. Kenard Lang's 73 tackles and 7 sacks may have earned him a move to outside linebacker, but McKinley's 60 tackles and 3 sacks in 2004 are nothing to take lightly.

91 Andrew Hoffman DE
2004 (U of Virginia)1212522329115
Career (U of Virginia)46361678186135
Rookie Andrew Hoffman, the Browns' fifth round draft pick in 2005, broke out in his senior season at Virginia in 2004, recording 11 of his 13 career tackles-for-loss, and all five of his career sacks. This year, the 6-4, 296-pound Hoffman will look to break into Cleveland's rotation at defensive end.

98 Nick Eason NT
2004 (Cleveland)1021100
Career (2 years)0021100
Drafted in the fourth round by Denver in 2003, Nick Eason's career has been disappointing to this point. Of course, he hasn't really had much of a career to this point. After spending all of 2003 on the Broncos' practice squad and the spring of 2004 in NFL Europe, Eason was released at the start of the 2004 NFL season. He was then signed by the Browns, and made his only NFL appearance in week 14 of 2004. This season Eason will look to make the roster of a team that is rather thin at the defensive line.

94 Amon Gordon DE
2004 (Cleveland)60106400
Career (1 year)60106400
A 2004 draft pick of the Browns, Amon Gordon has the size to play defensive end or tackle. After playing in six games in 2004 on the line and on special teams, Gordon will look to increase his playing time in his sophomore season.

92 David McMillan DE/OLB
2004 (Kansas U)11371819137
Career (Kansas U)463715083673015
The Browns picked up a versatile athlete in the fifth round of this year's draft. David McMillan out of Kansas can play defensive end or linebacker. From the looks of it, he is almost as comfortable in coverage - 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups - as he is in the offensive backfield - 15 sacks, 30 tackles-for-loss, and 19 quarterback pressures. If McMillan can have a good training camp, look for him to be a contributor in 2005.

66 Simon Fraser DE
2004 (Ohio State)121228121652.5
Career (Ohio State)518810
The Browns continued their trend of favoring homegrown talent by signing defensive end Simon Fraser as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State. At six and a half feet tall, Fraser will have the ability to knock down a few passes from his defensive end spot.

61 Doug Sims NT
2004 (No team)0000000
Career (4 years)0000000
Doug Sims began his career as an undrafted free agent for Seattle in 2001. After spending 2001 on Washington's practice squad, he found himself in San Diego for training camp 2002. Sims hasn't played much football since then. An ankle injury at that 2002 training camp ended his season. The following year, he was released at the end of training camp, and the year after that (2004), no one wanted him. After almost two years away from the game, the Browns will be giving him a second chance in 2005.

90 Corey Jackson DE
2004 (Cleveland)1010100
Career (2 years)1010100

93 Kevin Carberry DE
2004 stats at Ohio U unavailable
Career (Ohio U)12119.58
Kevin Carberry is semi-homegrown talent. The former Ohio U star was born in Oak Lawn, IL. The four-year starter for the Bobcats brings with him that many years of experience in a 3-4 defense.

69 J'Vonne Parker NT
2004 (Rutgers)11197123.50.5
Career stats at Howard U and Rutgers unavailable
J'Vonne Parker only played 19 football games in college. But, he is yet another all-around athlete that Romeo Crennel seems to favor so much. The 6-4 Parker was also a starting center on his high school basketball team.

73 Ellery Moore DE
2004 (U of Kentucky)11104026147.53.0
Career (U of Kentucky)4318139208.5
Undrafted rookie Ellery Moore played both defensive end, defensive tackle, and nose tackle at the University of Kentucky. While his height (6-1) is unbecoming of a defensive end, his size (300 pounds) makes him good for that position in the 3-4. Why? In the 4-3, linemen line up in a gap between two offensive lineman. In the 3-4, defensive linemen line up directly across from an offensive counterpart, therefore necessitating bigger, stronger defensive linemen in that scheme.


96 Kenard Lang OLB/DE
2004 (Cleveland)1615733231107
Career (8 years)122964853241442042
To the casual observer, Kenard Lang had a breakout year in 2004 with 73 tackles and 7 sacks. However, that performance was just typical Kenard Lang. Throw out the 2000 season, when he was forced into a reserve roll, and Lang has averaged 66 tackles and 5.5 sacks a season. The pass rushing special will move to outside linebacker in the 3-4, but is sure to see time as a down lineman as well.

54 Andra Davis ILB
2004 (Cleveland)111189573200.5
Career (3 years)43272631748725.5
The poster child for Butch Davis' youth movement at linebacker in 2003, Andra Davis responded with 170 tackles and 5 sacks. Last season was an off year for Davis, with "only" 89 tackles. Numbers aside, Andra Davis will surely do whatever his coaching staff needs him to do in this new defensive scheme.

58 Ben Taylor ILB
2004 (Cleveland)32106400
Career (3 years)2310109743140
Who is Ben Taylor? Quite possibly the best linebacker on this team. (OK, that may be a bit of a stretch, but bear with me.) Taylor has shown great promise when he has played, but repeated visits by the injury bug have limited him to only 23 games in his three NFL seasons. If he can stay healthy, Ben Taylor will look to improve upon the 95 tackles he had in 13 games in 2003.

55 Matt Stewart OLB
2004 (Atlanta)1616894445-1.5
Career (4 years)6345300167133-7
Perhaps the quietest of the Browns' offseason acquisitions so far, linebacker Matt Stewart is a proven starter. Even though he has been a starter since 2002, Stewart appears to be more of a "system guy" than a star. That is, he doesn't have high numbers when it comes to sacks or interceptions (in fact, he has zero career interceptions). However, with a young front seven, a guy who goes out there and just does his job - as opposed to a guy who tries to grab the spotlight - may be just what this defense needs.

52 Brant Boyer OLB
2004 (Cleveland)00
Career (11 years)13017372221147713
The wily veteran of this defense, Brant Boyer missed all of 2004 with a foot injury. The year before, he earned more playing time by playing well and recording 80 tackles. On the bench or on the field, Boyer will be the leader that a still-young Cleveland linebacker unit will look up to.

53 Mason Unck ILB
2004 (Cleveland)11054100
Career (2 years)12054100
Somewhat of a fan-favorite in Cleveland, perhaps more for his linebacker-sounding name than his statistical output, Mason Unck has developed into Cleveland's token "fired up special teams guy." After spending time on the practice squad and in NFL Europe, Unck saw playing time in 11 games in 2004. He'll look to increase that playing time in 2005, perhaps even as a member of the regular linebacker rotation.

51 Chaun Thompson ILB
2004 (Cleveland)161380413812.5
Career (2 years)321384443912.5
Still raw talent more than a finished product, Chaun Thompson used last season to show what made him a second-round pick in 2003. If Thompson doesn't make the starting lineup, he'll likely be one of the first guys off the bench at linebacker.

59 Nick Speegle OLB
2004 (U of New Mexico)121292474512.51.5
Career (U of New Mexico)504331738
There never seems to be a shortage of linebackers in the draft, and the Browns used one of their two sixth round picks in 2005 to pick up another one. Nick Speegle has been described as "incredibly tough" and a "quiet playmaker" - just the type of guy you want on a team-oriented defense.

47 Jamal Brooks ILB
2004 (No team)0000000
Career (5 years)1612112900
Jamal Brooks has been around the NFL since 2000, but hasn't seen game action since 2001. After missing 2002 with a broken fibula, Brooks spent 2003 on Dallas' practice squad, and was out of football entirely in 2004. Another player looking for a second chance, Jamal Brooks will be looking to make an impression when training camp opens.

36 Renauld Williams ILB
2004 (Miami)2020200
Career (1 year)2020200
Renauld Williams played defensive end and linebacker at Hofstra, but it looks like his size (6-0, 238 pounds) will limit him to linebacker in the NFL. Between time on the practice squad and injured reserve for Miami in 2004, Williams played two games without any to show in the box score. Of course, with a good training camp, anything can happen for him in 2005.

57 Sherrod Coates OLB
2004 (Cleveland)5011000
Career (2 years)21011000
Now in his third season with the Browns, Sherrod Coates has seen 21 games of NFL playing experience, mostly on special teams. It will be interesting to see whether Coates can find a roster spot this year, or if he will be another victim of a new coach wanting to bring in "his own guys."

56 Justin Kurpeikis OLB
2004 (New England)5000000
Career (4 years)14022000
Justin Kurpeikis has the advantage of having spent two years in Romeo Crennel's system in New England. Kurpeikis signed with Cleveland a week and a half after Romeo Crennel became the new head coach. There must be something he sees in this kid; don't be too surprised if Kurpeikis makes the squad when all is said and done.

49 Eric Mahl ILB
2004 (Kent State)11119646507.52
Career (Kent State)29513719
Another homegrown name shows up at training camp. Kent State alum Eric Mahl is a Monroeville, OH, native, and was a two-time All-MAC selection. Mahl was also selected to play in the 2005 Las Vegas All-American Gridiron Classic senior all-star game.

48 Kevin Harrison ILB
2004 (Eastern Michigan)1111146628494.5
Career (Eastern Michigan)3634320228.5
Kevin Harrison may not be homegrown talent, but the Browns didn't have to go too far to find him. Harrison signed as an undrafted free agent following this year's draft. Another all-around athlete, Harrison was a quarterback/defensive back and third-team all-state basketball player in high school.

74 Omar Nazel OLB
2004 (No team)0000000
Career (1 year)0000000
The former USC standout was signed as an undrafted free agent by Seattle in 2004, but never made it out of training camp. A versatile linebacker, Nazel had 13.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 2 recovered fumbles during his four years with the Trojans.

71 Ivory McCoy OLB/DE
2004 (Detroit)0000000
Career (3 years)0000000
Ivory McCoy has bounced around between a few practice squads during his three-year NFL career, but has yet to see any game action. His 2004 season in NFL Europe was less than impressive, as he collected only 18 tackles in 10 games. McCoy is another versatile athlete, though, as he lined up at tight end, running back, fullback, defensive end, and linebacker while at Michigan State.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Beisbol Clasic Del Mundo

Group A: Games Played in Japan (Tokyo) or Taiwan

Before we take a look at Group A, here are a few notes on the WBC:
  • The full list of competing counties can be foundhere. If you're too lazy to click a link, I'll unveil the countries as I go along in this series.

  • Apparently, Japan and Cuba are in, as they have been officially announced as competitors.

  • The island of Curacao is governed by The Netherlands. Therefore, Randall Simon and Andruw Jones will be eligible to play on that team.

  • Alex Rodriguez has declared that he will be playing for the Dominican Republic. You may have surmised this if you watched the Home Run Derby and saw him waving a Dominican flag while wearing... slacks and a button down shirt. Apparently, his All-Star workout jersey was in the wash. Rodriguez, by the way, was born in the Dominican town of New York, New York.

  • Gary Sheffield is out. He refuses to risk injury in something that's "made up" - unless he's paid for it.


RF Ichiro
CF Dave Roberts
SS Kaz Matsui
DH Hideki Matsui
2B Tadahito Iguchi
LF So Taguchi
C ?
1B ?
3B ?

Who knew that Dave Roberts was born in Japan? This team is very outfield-heavy, so much so that Hideki Matsui, who played CF in Japan, will get a chance to DH in the WBC. For those of you not familiar with the names at the "bottom" of the lineup, Iguchi is a rookie for the White Sox, and Taguchi is a defensive specialist for the Cardinals. As for the remaining three positions - do you think they can get Tom Selleck to play first base?

OF Tsuyoshi Shinjo

The Met fan favorite (until the fans found out that he couldn't hit) will be most remembered for his giant orange armbands. Where is he now? Shinjo returned to the Japanese league after a short and unsuccessful career in the Majors.

SP Hideo Nomo
SP Kaz Ishii
SP Tomo Ohka
SP Kaz Tadano
SP Stephen Randolph

At a point in 2002 (Ishii's rookie year in the Majors), the top of this rotation would have struck fear into any ballclub. Maybe not so much any more, but it still may be enough to win this pool. Rounding out the rotation are a guy who went from the Expos/Nationals to the Brewers, a guy who gives "backdoor slider" a whole new meaning, and a spot starter for the Diamondbacks.

RP Shigetoshi Hasegawa
RP Shingo Takatsu
RP Akinori Otsuka
RP Satoru Komiyama
RP Masao Kida
RP Mike Nakamura
CP Kaz Sasaki

With four big names in this lineup, the starters theoretically only have to give six good innings each game (assuming Hasegawa and/or Takatsu don't falter). Not a bad pen, even with the cup of coffee guys at the bottom. If you think those names are Gammonsesque, you should see the guys I had to cut from the pen.

South Korea

C ?
2B ?
3B ?
1B Hee Seop Choi
SS ?
LF ?
CF ?
RF ?
DH ?

Well, Korean home run kind Hee Seop Choi will have a lot of running around to do on defense, unless he can find some people to play with.


SP Chan Ho Park
SP Sun-Woo Kim
SP Jae Weong Seo
SP Cha Eung Baek
SP Tommy Phelps

Well, it's Park, who started it all for Koreans in the Majors, and a list of prospects who haven't quite panned out yet. I don't know if this rotation will be good enough to get past Japan in this pool.

RP Jung Bong
CP Byung-Hyun Kim

BK Kim was a starter in Japan, and that's what he wants to be. However, while his submarining style makes him a great set-up man, the element of surprise is lost the second or third time through the lineup as a starter. That said, he's the only person from Korea with MLB closer experience, so he gets the nod. BONG!


C ?
1B ?
2B ?
LF Chin-Feng Chen
3B ?
SS ?
CF ?
RF ?
DH ?

Chen has played small parts of three seasons with the Dodgers so far, but is yet to get a hit in the Majors. As with Choi, he's going to have a lot of running around to do unless he can get some help.


SP Chin-Hui Tsao

Coming into 2005, Tsao had made 19 career appearances for Colorado, starting 8. His 7.60 career minor league ERA (not to mention 9.40 with the Rockies) probably won't put fear into anyone's heart.



No active Major Leaguers. I didn't know that.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Browns Position Preview #3: Wide Receiver and Tight End

(Editor's Note: Blah blah AllSportsOhio. Link here blah blah.)

Wide Receiver

86 Dennis Northcutt
2004 (Cleveland)16115580650.42
Career (5 years)7032212276939.69
Injuries and other moves made Dennis Northcutt the Browns' number one option in 2004. He led the team with 55 receptions; the year before, he caught 62 passes. More of an open-field threat than a pure route-runner, Northcutt has also averaged 8 rushes per season over his career. And, of course, he is known as one of the league's best punt returners. Northcutt's 12.0 yard punt return average in 2004 was the second best of his career. His best average came in 2002 at 14.7 yards per, when he also scored the only two punt return touchdowns of his career. With a detail-minded coach like Romeo Crennel, look for an improved special teams unit to help Northcutt find the end zone on a punt once again.

17 Braylon Edwards
2004 (U of Michigan)1212971330110.815
Career (U of Michigan)4436253354180.569
With the third pick of the 2005 draft, Browns GM wanted to take the best player available. That player was former Michigan Wolverine Braylon Edwards. Edwards earned the right to wear the revered maize and blue number 1, setting new Michigan career records for receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The only criticism of this Biletnikoff Award winner's game is his tendency to drop passes - a theme that was also common of Browns receivers during the Butch Davis era. If Edwards can hold onto the football, and continue the success he had in college, he will change from a hated foe into a loved hero in the hearts of Ohio sports fans.

87 Andre Davis
2004 (Cleveland)771641659.42
Career (3 years)391993141236.213
Andre Davis was having a career month in October of 2004 - he averaged almost 98 yards per game in weeks 4, 5, and 6, including a franchise-record 99-yard touchdown reception against Cincinnati in week 6. That ended quickly, though, as a toe sprain against the Bengals allowed him to play only one game for the rest of the season. The big play threat has four receptions of 49 yards or more and a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown in his career. He will look to continue the success that was cut short in 2004.

81 Antonio Bryant
2004 (Dallas/Cleveland)1585881254.14
Career (3 years)4728141209544.612
In a trade of malcontents, Cleveland shipped Quincy Morgan to the Cowboys for Antonio Bryant. While Dennis Northcutt led the Browns in receptions in 2004, Bryant's combined stats with Cleveland and Dallas were better. The Browns' "other" Biletnikoff winner grew unhappy in Dallas when he wasn't given playing time. His numbers show that he can be worth the playing time. With the Browns' newfound talent at wide receiver, will Bryant get that playing time?

19 Frisman Jackson
2004 (Cleveland)1001316816.80
Career (3 years)220162039.20
The brown-and-orange number 19 jersey will perhaps always be associated with Bernie Kosar. The current number 19 is said to have a great passing arm, but he doesn't line up at quarterback - usually. Frisman Jackson is listed as a wide receiver on the depth chart, but he can best be described by the over-used monicker of "role player." Jackson has done just about everything except kick extra points in his short career with the Browns. He's made tackles on coverage teams, blocked for kick returner Richard Alston, caught passes (of course), and has also been the go-to guy when the Browns needed a Hail Mary pass. If Romeo Crennel has learned anything from mentor Bill Belichick, there should always be a place for role players on a Crennel-coached team.

89 Richard Alston
2004 (Cleveland)90000.00
Career (1 year)90000.00
Richard Alston is listed as a wide receiver, but he has yet to catch a pass in the NFL. That hasn't stopped him from making an impact, though. Alston was only active for one game prior to week 8 in 2004. In week 8, though, he did something to earn a roster spot for the rest of the season - Alston took the opening kickoff from the Ravens and raced 93 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. It was his only touchdown of the season, but that didn't stop him from being an effective returner. Alston averaged 22.1 yards per return in 2004, and will look to repeat his success in 2005.

85 CJ Jones
2004 (Cleveland)00000.00
Career (2 years)00000.00
Many current Browns fans have probably heard of CJ Jones, but he has yet to play in a game. Primarily a kick returner, Jones has also spent time on the practice squad and in NFL Europe as a receiver (his true position) and a defensive back. On an interesting note, Jones is a cousin of Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, former Dolphin Korey Banks, and former Iowa teammate Brad Banks.

16 Josh Cribbs
Receiving stats at Kent State not available.
The name Josh Cribbs may be familiar to Browns fans, but the position won't be. The former Kent State quarterback signed with his new hometown team (Cribbs is originally from Washington, DC) shortly after the 2005 NFL draft. While at Kent State, Cribbs amassed 10,839 total yards on offense - a school record - and finished with 1,000+ yards passing and 1,000+ yards rushing in the same season three times. Only one other player in history has had two career 1,000/1,000 seasons. Cribbs joins a host of talented all-around athletes trying to make the Browns at wide receiver.

11 Lance Moore

2004 (U of Toledo)1390118991.514
Career (U of Toledo)50222277655.525
Yet another theme in the Browns' camp this year is homegrown talent. Lance Moore hails from the University of Toledo, where he set school records for receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The undersized (5'9", 177 lbs.) Moore also returned kicks and punts while with the Rockets.

1 Brandon Rideau
2004 (Kansas U)11115159745.97
Career (Kansas U)4334131163638.014
Brandon Rideau is yet another all-around athlete. The high school quarterback, track star, and basketball state champion added two blocked punts to the 131 catches he had while at Kansas. His height - 6'3" - will work in his favor while trying to make the Browns.

Tight End

80 Kellen Winslow, Jr.
2004 (Cleveland)2255025.00
Career (1 year)2255025.00
Kellen Winslow is brash, cocky, and arrogant to the point of annoyance (this writer for one is constantly annoyed with him). That being said, it must be a great feeling for a quarterback (armchair or otherwise) to always have a sure option in the seam on third-and-long. Winslow's career has been short, but still has a load of potential.

82 Steve Heiden
2004 (Cleveland)13132828722.15
Career (6 years)8041776137.78
When you draft a player like Kellen Winslow, it only makes sense to install a tight end-centric offense. When Winslow went down to injury, the rest of Cleveland's tight ends benefited from the playbook designed to feature their position. Steve Heiden was one of several Browns tight ends to have career years. If Offensive Coordinator Maurice Carthon is wise, he will take a lesson from predecessor Terry Robiskie and go to his hard-nosed tight ends early and often.

83 Aaron Shea
2004 (Cleveland)1582625216.84
Career (5 years)53267969813.26
Aaron Shea was another beneficiary of Terry Robiskie's tight end-centric offense. Similar to Steve Heiden, Shea put up career stats in 2004, with numbers only slightly lower than Heiden's.

49 Keith Heinrich
2004 (Cleveland)708649.12
Career (3 years)1838643.62
You want a career year for a Browns tight end? Keith Heinrich didn't catch a pass in his first two years in the NFL. In 2004, he caught three passes and found the end zone twice.

88 Paul Irons
2004 (Florida State)11118898.10
Career (Florida State)4921161743.61
Undrafted rookie Paul Irons started at Florida State as a fullback, but was later moved to tight end. Irons' numbers were limited, but his participation was not. Yet another role player, Irons played 89 games for the Seminoles at fullback, tight end, and on special teams.

84 Keith Willis
2004 (Cleveland)00000.00
Career (1 year)00000.00
Tight end Keith Willis falls into the "all-around athlete" category. Mostly a reserve on the Virginia Tech football team, Willis also spent a year playing for the Hokie basketball team. In addition to playing tight end in high school, Willis also played tight end and punter.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Clasica del Beisbol Mundial

For those of you who don't habla espanol, "Clasica del Beisbol Mundial" is Spanish for the World Baseball Classic. Of course, I don't speak Spanish either, so I probably butchered that title. Anyone want to correct me?

By now, you may have heard of the World Baseball Classic, the World Cup-style tournament tentatively scheduled for March of 2006. Starting the hype, next Monday's Home Run Derby will feature a hitter from eight of the expected competing countries.
Now, with the World Baseball Classic, "tentatively" is the key word. As mentioned above, the Classic is tentatively scheduled for March. This is a minor point of controversy, as it interferes with spring training for both the US and Japan leagues. Because of this, Japan, expected to be a host country, may pull out of the tournament. Also, Cuba's status in the tournament will depend on the US State Department's willingness to allow their national team to play in the US, and Fidel Castro's willingness to allow them to play in the tournament at all. The tentative host countries and competitors are:

Japan: Japan?, Korea, Taiwan, China
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico, Cuba?, Panama, Italy?
US 1: US, Canada, Mexico, South Africa?
US 2: Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, the Netherlands

US games will most likely be played at Arizona and Florida spring training stadiums. Countries with question marks are tentative participants.

Recently, I downloaded the same database used by Here's my first chance to use it. Drawing from a list of players who were not officially retired as of 2004, I created "all-country" teams based on place of birth. Now, this doesn't guarantee that a player is eligible to play for that country (since this is a database of MLB players, all Cuban-born players are ineligible by default, as they are all defectors - unless of course Fidel meets his untimely demise between now and next March). I also won't be able to list non-MLB players who may play for their national team. What I plan to do is comprise the best team possible given current (or relatively current) Major League players from each country. Live with it.

Before I begin looking at the countries who will be participating, I will give you an all-star team comprised of players who were not born in a World Baseball Classic country.

2B Orlando Cabrera (Colombia)
3B Jolbert Cabrera (Colombia)
SS Edgar Renteria (Colombia)
CF Andruw Jones (Curacao)
DH Randall Simon (Curacao)
RF Marvin Benard (Nicaragua)
1B Calvin Pickering (Virgin Islands)
LF Gene Kingsale (Aruba)/Midre Cummings (Virgin Islands)
C ?

Colombia represents the infield proudly with the Cabrera brothers and Renteria. That's a great way to start any lineup. The tiny Dutch island of Curacao provides the pop in the lineup with Andruw Jones and Randall (insert inappropriate comment about a guy who likes to beat sausage here) Simon. Next comes the recently retired Marvin Benard. (Is he retired, or did he just change his name to Marquis Grissom so he could keep playing for the Giants? It's hard to tell.) Gammonsesquity rules the bottom of the lineup as journeyman Calvin Pickering (.232 hitter for Baltimore, Cincinnati, Boston, and Kansas City) plays first and generic outfielders Kingsale and Cummings fight for the right field spot. There's apparently an opening at catcher - does anyone want to grab a mask?


SP Sidney Ponson (Aruba)
SP Lance Painter (England)
SP Vincente Padilla (Nicaragua)
SP Edwin Jackson (Germany)

Sir Sidney Ponson headlines this rotation, assuming he's playing well. Otherwise, that honor goes to the recently retired Lance Painter. (I'm predicting an "Oh wow" in the "I remember him" sense from Dave right about now.) The Padilla flotilla comes in from Nicaragua to help shore up the rotation, and young Edwin Jackson (debuted on his 20th birthday in 2003) rounds out the starting staff.

RP Steve Kent (Germany)
CP Danny Graves (Vietnam)

Not much of a bullpen here, is there? Kent is a cup-of-coffee guy; he pitched in 34 games for Tampa Bay in 2002. Chances are, he's still floating around in someone's organization. Danny Graves, meanwhile, has yet to lose his spot as the closer on this team.

Well, there's your first taste at this series. I'll try to break the countries down a pool a week, but I may have to go a country a week. Some countries will be easy - Italy, South Africa have no native Major Leaguers - others will be a little more interesting.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Browns Position Preview #2: Running Back and Fullback

(Editor's Note: This is the second article in my series for All-Sports Ohio. Link here.)

Running Back

44 Lee Suggs
2004 (CLE)1041997443.72201781
Career (2 yrs)17425510334.14221781
Early indications suggest that the job if starting running back is Lee Suggs' to lose. Suggs' short career has been injury-filled, but also full of promise. In only 10 games last year, he was able to lead the Browns in rushing yards, a stat helped by the 379 yards gained in the final three games of the season. Suggs also had one 100-yard receiving game in 2004. In 2005, he will look to improve his skills as a receiver, in an attempt to better himself as an all-around threat out of the backfield.

34 Reuben Droughns
2004 (DEN)161527512404.56322412
Career (5 yrs)562231513374.27504026
Replacing the ineffective Quentin Griffin as Denver's starting running back in 2004, Reuben Droughns burst onto the scene in week five against the Carolina Panthers. Droughns gained 193 yards on the ground that week, and went on to pick up an additional 723 rushing yards over the following six weeks. He cooled off after that - relatively, of course - but still ended the season with 1240 rushing yards. This year, Droughns will challenge Lee Suggs for the top running back spot for the Browns. Droughns began as a fullback with the Broncos, so Browns Offensive Coordinator Maurice Carthon will have a variety of formation options when it comes to Droughns, Suggs, and the rest of this unit.

31 William Green
2004 (CLE)15121635853.6214840
Career (3 yrs)382954820313.79402470
Life hasn't been easy for any of the "New Browns" six first-round draft picks. William Green is perhaps the epitome of this. After a slow start to his rookie season of 2002, Green exploded for 726 rushing yards in the last seven games of the year, including a 178-yard performance against Atlanta that vaulted the Browns into the playoffs. It looked to be more of the same to start 2003, until an injury, a drug-related suspension, and a stabbing at the hands of his fiancee ended his season nine games short. Green was back for 2004, but ineffectiveness - perhaps his fault, perhaps the fault of a patched-together offensive line - saw him quickly lose playing time to Lee Suggs at the end of the season. Green will go into 2005 as Cleveland's third-stringer, but he may only be around until another team comes calling for him.

20 Sultan McCullough
2004 (CLE)00000.00000
Career (2 yrs)10000.00000
Former USC great Sultan McCullough has played only one game in his two-year career. That occurred in 2003 while with the Washington Redskins, where he had one rushing attempt and three receptions. Since then, he has bounced between a few teams' practice squads, before landing on Cleveland's in late 2004. With Lee Suggs' history of injury problems, and the expected exodus of William Green, Sultan McCullough should be able to look forward to some playing time in this upcoming season.

23 Chad Scott
2004 (UNC)11111437965.68131071
Career (UK/UNC)34817995.216797522
Undrafted rookie Chad Scott comes to the Browns after a college career that was split evenly between the Kentucky Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels. Scott led Kentucky in rushing as a freshman and North Carolina in rushing as a senior. His college bio (courtesy references his high school career and a team award for his weight training, and calls him a "good receiver." Those factors indicate that the Browns have signed a very versatile athlete.


42 Terrelle Smith
2004 (CLE)169492.307390
Career (5 yrs)7545431593.70381922
When the Browns decided that they needed a hard-nosed blocking back, they signed Terrelle Smith. How much of an impact does Smith have on a running game? In 2002 and 2003 with Smith, Saints RB Deuce McAllister averaged 92 and 102 yards per game, respectively. In 2004, that average dropped to 77 yards per game. Now, that is probably a misleading stat, as there are many factors that impact a running back's performance. But that still shouldn't take away from what the unselfish, blue-collar Smith can do for a team. Smith can also be an offensive threat when used properly; he had 29 rushes for 131 yards and 12 catches for 65 yards his rookie season.

40 Ben Miller
2004 (Cleveland)00000.00000
Career (3 years)00000.00000
Columbia Station, OH native Ben Miller is looking at his best chance in four years to make his hometown team. Miller played offensive line for the Air Force Academy before signing with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent. In 2002 and 2003, he participated in training camp and preseason games as a fullback for the Browns, before returning to the USAFA and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to complete his required two years of military service. With his military obligation complete, Miller was eligible to join the Browns full-time in 2004, but a preseason ankle injury ended that. This year, Ben Miller is back, hoping to make the team as a reserve fullback and special teamer.

36 Corey McIntyre
2004 (CLE)00000.00000
Career (3 yrs)00000.00000
A Defensive End/Linebacker in college at West Virginia, Corey McIntyre has turned into a fullback as a pro. McIntyre has yet to see any game action in the states, spending time on Philadelphia and Cleveland's practice squads. He was however a member of the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe in 2003, the team that went on to win that year's World Bowl championship. This year, he will look to battle Ben Miller to be the Browns' backup fullback and a special teams contributor.