Meadville Tribune

September 16, 2013

WALK TALK: Browns continue to show no signs of progression

By Dan Walk
Meadville Tribune

1 The start of every NFL season is such a pleasant experience. Even if your team struggled last year, you’re always hopeful that the new year will breed better results. That is, unless you’re a Browns fan. Just two games in, Cleveland has scored 18 points and is somehow already mired in a six-quarter touchdown-less drought. The defense has been solid, but with little to no offensive production, the Browns’ “D” needs to pitch shutouts right now.

2 The Browns’ Brandon Weeden doesn’t look any better than last year and has been sacked 11 times already. He still doesn’t have an elite receiver to throw to (though Jordan Cameron has looked good and Josh Gordon returns next week) and supposed savior running back Trent Richardson is averaging 3.4 yards per carry on 31 attempts. Knowing the Browns won’t be on TV every week because our region is set in Bills mode, I suggested some websites to my dad so he could watch future games. After Sunday, he declined any interest into any websites. I know he and other frustrated Browns fans won’t give up on the team anytime soon, but all that hope of a new year has already fizzled into more sorrow in just eight days.

3 The Bills have been a different story though. And the shock of the year so far is the effectiveness of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, whose Bills are a defensive stand against Tom Brady away from a surprise 2-0 start. Unlike Weeden, a lot of pressure has been taken off Manuel since he has Stevie Johnson to throw to and CJ Spiller to hand off to. Manuel’s 80-yard, game-winning touchdown drive with no timeouts in just 92 seconds provides a ton of promise.

4 NFC West rivals Seattle and San Francisco are widely said to be the two best teams in their conference — if not the whole league. And once again, the Seahawks resoundingly proved they’re the better team with a 29-3 home win in primetime Sunday. Seattle won the matchup 42-13 in Week 16 last season. Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been impressive since taking over the starting role last season, but Seattle’s defense is something he’s yet to figure out. But San Fran’s failure wasn’t all on Kaepernick — the 49ers’ three running backs combined for 13 yards on 11 attempts. We’ll have to keep an eye on how things transpire in the rematch in San Francisco — the result may be different.

5 NFL quick hits: Peyton Manning is on pace for 72 touchdown passes; remember two years ago when we questioned if he’d ever play again? ... Jaguars fans are rallying to get the team to sign Tim Tebow. What else does Jacksonville have to lose? It’ll sell tickets and maybe win one or two more games than expected. ... My top 5 teams through two weeks: 1. Seattle (2-0), 2. Denver (2-0), 3. San Francisco (1-1), 4. New Orleans (2-0), 5. Miami (2-0). ... And the bottom 5: 32. Jacksonville (0-2), 31. Cleveland (0-2), 30. Tampa Bay (0-2), 29. Washington (0-2), 28. Carolina (0-2).

6 Alabama football can be knocked down, but it’s incredibly hard to knock the Crimson Tide out. Alabama trailed 14-0 on the road in the most anticipated game of the season and allowed Johnny Manziel to throw for 464 yards and six touchdowns. Yet, the Tide still controlled the clock (35:02 to 24:58) and won in a hostile environment thanks to a 35-point surge from the midpoint of the first quarter to early in the third quarter. There’s no reason to believe Alabama can’t win its third straight BCS championship after its gut-check performance on Saturday.

7 Who kidnapped Ubaldo Jimenez and who is this imposter pitching under his name? Of all the Indians pitchers to get hot in September, I never imagined it would be Jimenez, who has allowed just one earned run in three starts this month. He actually hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in a start since July 14. The fact that he’s walked a total of three batters over his last four starts is a big reason why he’s been so successful lately. He walked more than three per start during last year’s 17-loss season.

8 For a bench player at the start of the season, Ryan Raburn has proved to be one of the Indians’ most important players. Save for Jason Kipnis, you could argue that Raburn is the Tribe’s MVP. It’s no coincidence that Cleveland lost five straight games during an August road trip in Atlanta and Detroit during Raburn’s stint on the disabled list. And they’ve gotten hot since his return. The Indians clearly believe in the veteran considering they signed him to a two-year deal mid-season.

9 The UFC is back on pay per view Saturday with a light heavyweight bout I’ve been waiting over a year to see: champion Jon Jones faces Swedish standout Alexander Gustafsson. A big reason why Jones has been so successful — in addition to his freakish athleticism — is he’s so much larger and longer than every opponent he’s faced. His reach (84.5 inches) is unprecedented for his weight class but Gustafsson’s is 76.5 — much closer than Jones’ previous opponents. Jones has the edge in experience and wrestling, but mentally, Gustafsson isn’t going to be afraid of a title fight — similar to Chris Weidman against Anderson Silva. Gustafsson is no slouch, but I just don’t see Jones losing until he someday moves to heavyweight.

10 The UFC is usually spot-on when choosing head coaches for its twice-a-year reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. But it made a mistake by picking BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar for the spring 2014 edition of “TUF.” Both may be good coaches, but part of the show’s point is to have two rivals meet in the octagon once the season ends. Penn and Edgar fought years ago in a pair of five-round bouts — both won by Edgar. Penn wants to get the stain of the one-sided matchup off his record, but I don’t really care to see them fight again — especially if it ends up being a headliner.

The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at dwalk@meadvilletribune.com.