Tag:Lawrence Vickers
Posted on: January 12, 2009 12:20 am
Edited on: January 12, 2009 12:35 am
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Top 10 Favorite Cleveland Browns of All-Time


In the context of casual conversation, I am frequently asked, "who is your favorite Cleveland Browns' player?" My immediate response to that question is usually along the lines of, 

"I love the team and enjoy the players."

Cliche, I know - but it's true. Even for a team that has caused nothing but heartbreak and disappointment, I can't help but love them all. Any football player who willingly sacrifices his body and plays with passion for my city has a place in my heart regardless. With that said, there have been players over time that have stepped up to the plate and defined what it means to be a Cleveland Brown. Today I recognize those players that make me so proud to support this organization.

Before I get to this list, I must say it was extremely difficult coming up with only 10. When names like Eric Metcalf, Clay Matthews, Brady Quinn, and Otto Graham don't even crack the list, you know it must have been a tough cut.

Without further ado, Sircheeks presents: My Top 10 Favorite Cleveland Browns of All-Time.


10. Ozzie Newsome (1978-1990)

There's no disputing Ozzie Newsome as the greatest tight end in Cleveland Browns' history. Ozzie spent his entire career with the Browns and highlighted some of those high scoring teams in the early 80s. Newsome has virtually seen it all with the team as he was one of the few players around for "Red-Right 88," "The Drive," and "The Fumble." He was an intrical piece of the Cardiac Kids and was a huge reason Cleveland football was respected so greatly during his day. Ozzie would have been significantly lower had that whole Ravens' GM thing never occurred. Through no fault of his own, I harbor a minor grudge against Newsome, but his exploits as a player were great enough to land him at the number 10 spot.

9. Pepper Johnson (1993-1995)

Johnson makes this list because of not only who he was, but what he represented. Pepper Johnson was an all-American linebacker who graduated from Ohio State University. After learning the game from Bill Parcells in New York, he followed Bill Belichick to Cleveland where he played for the Browns. According to a fantastic book written by David Halberstam, Belichick described Pepper Johnson as a quick, smart, well rounded linebacker who was good in pass coverage and got along well with his teammates. If you asked me what kind of player best represents the prototypical Browns linebacker - that would be it. Johnson makes this list not only because of his collegiate connection to the hometown team, but because he played the game the right way...and for the right people.

8. Courtney Brown (2000-2004)

Ahh yes, Courtney Brown. You never forget your first love, and Courtney Brown was certainly mine. Back when he was drafted with the number one overall selection in the 2000 NFL draft, I fell in love. Brown had the size, reputation, speed, and draft status to transform the Browns' defense into something fierce. In addition to that, he carried that surname which lead me to believe it was a match made in heaven. I was wrong. Courtney Browns was the first real disappointment I experienced on a first-hand basis. For years I pulled for this guy - hoping he would live up to his full potential. Courtney teased me in return - showing flashes of dominance at times while remaining injured on the sidelines at others. Courtney represents my first personal encounter with frustration, and for that he finds his way on this list.

7. Lawrence Vickers (2006-present)

From one man-crush, we go to another. Man, I love me some Vickers! The thing about Lawrence is he plays a position synonymous with Cleveland Browns football, and boy does he play it well. In a league where fullbacks should be monitored and bred on reservations, Vickers plays that hard-nosed position with that old school determination rare in today's game. Though he was never a graceful runner like his Brownie ancestors, Vickers is one of the most punishing blockers the NFL has seen in quite some time. The Cleveland Browns' tradition is built on excellent fullback play, and nothing comforts me more than knowing we still have one of the games' best. Vickers' selflessness and immense talent land him at the number 7 spot, but he very well could be lower if properly utilized.

6. Bernie Kosar (1985-1993)

I prefer to remember Bernie Kosar as the clumsy young quarterback who sent Cleveland to the brink of several championships instead of the man he is today. Kosar does commentary for preseason games, and seems pale and lifeless at times. The man I see on NFL Films and read about was nothing of the sort. Bernie and the Browns gave Cleveland their last taste of excellent football, and for that I could not be more appreciative. The teams he quarterbacked were the most memorable ones in recent history, and he gave youngsters like myself something to refer to for those unaware of his predecessors. My only regret was not being able to see Bernie work his magic with my own eyes. I'm a bit jealous for that reason, which is why Kosar ends up where he is on this list.

5. D'Qwell Jackson (2006-present)

D'Qwell Jackson is a budding star. On a roster where physicality and toughness come at a premium, Jackson brings both on every play. There are very few things or even players to cheer about on today's incarnation of the Browns. We have superstar athletes who lack focus, linebackers who don't tackle, and safeties who shy away from contact. This is precisely why I hold D'Qwell is such high regard: he plays the game properly. His game is still slightly raw and he does make the occasional mistake, but he hustles on every single play. D'Qwell ends up at the 5 spot because he gives me hope for a brighter future. I sincerely hope the attitude and character Jackson exibits on a daily basis permeates every inch of this roster. The Browns have a great football player in D'Qwell Jackson, and I couldn't be happier he wears brown and orange.

4. Bill Willis (1946-1953)

What more could you ask for out of a football player? Willis not only excelled as a defensive lineman at Ohio State, but played his entire Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns. Willis was born and raised in the blue collar town of Columbus and played football for Paul Brown at both the collegiate and professional levels. Bill Willis played today's eqivilant of nose tackle in the Browns' formidable seasons. Under his coach, Willis was named all-pro in each of his 8 seasons in the league. He was instrumental in making Ohio football what it is, and his brand of football left a lasting legacy on countless people after him. In addition to his sensational credentials, Willis makes this list for what he went through as one of the first two African Americans to play in the National Football League. His courage and perseverance revolutionized the NFL and opened the door for thousands of minority athletes to enjoy the privilages they do today.

3. Lou Groza (1946-1959, 1961-1967)

Football analysts and broadcasters joke that kickers are not athletes and have no place on the football field. Such a statement is ironic because Lou "The Toe" Groza was one of the greatest athletes in the NFL who happened to be a kicker. Groza, like Bill Willis, was an Ohio product who played at Ohio State and helped establish the tradition of Ohio football. Groza is one of my favorite football players because he was hands down the most versatile player of his era. Groza spent his entire career playing both kicker and offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns. Think about that for a second - kicker and tackle! Could you imagine Joe Thomas or D'Brickashaw Ferguson blocking for an entire game only to kick a game winning field goal as time expires? Absurd. Groza's kicks were a huge part of Cleveland's championship run in the 1950's, and I admire him because of it.

2. Marion Motley (1946-1953)

I laugh when I hear Steelers fans argue Jerome Bettis or Franco Harris invented the power running game. Far from it. If Jerome Bettis is the modern day bus, Marion Motley is the British 1916 Mark-I Tank developed for usage in WWI. To call Marion Motley a bruiser is an understatement. Motley simply abused would-be tacklers, pounding away as the opposition until they quivered with fear. The offense behind Cleveland's dynasty had to come somewhere, and that place was on the back of Motley. To put it in contemporary terms, Marion Motley had the strength of Brandon Jacobs, the vision of LaDainian Tomlinson, the moves of Adrian Peterson, and the determination of Marion Barber. He was that good. In addition to shouldering the load for the Browns, Motley carried another burden with him - bigotry. Motley was the one who broke the color barrier in football along with Bill Willis. My appreciation of his efforts stems far deeper than what he did for the Cleveland Browns.

1. Jim Brown (1957-1965)

The Packers, Rams, 49ers, the Packers again, and the Steelers all passed on Jim Brown in the 1957 NFL Draft. Such fools. I can say with 100% certainty that Jim Brown is the greatest football player to ever play the game...ever. There's no reason for me to describe Jim Brown as a runner. I could talk about his 3 NFL MVP awards, his 5.2 yards per carry career average, or how he made the Pro Bowl in each of his 9 seasons in the league, but it would never do justice to the enigma that is Jim Brown. What's more frightening is he retired at age 29 - clearly in the prime of his career. Jim Brown is the ultimate Cleveland Brown. A living legend, there is no player that did more for this organization than Brown, and he is far and away my favorite Cleveland Brown to ever play the game. 



So there you have it.

The Cleveland Browns have a history rich in tradition and filled with some of the greatest players to ever play the game. The tradition established by the likes of Brown, Groza, Willis and others is simply remarkable. Although the Browns have fallen on hard times of late, the rich history provided by these marquee athletes makes me proud to be a Browns fan.
Posted on: November 30, 2008 7:31 pm
 

Part 1: Fixing the Cleveland Browns' Offense

Out of sheer frustration, I've decided to break down the Cleveland Browns in a two part series. The first part will take a look at the Browns' offense and what they need to focus on heading into 2009.



On offense, the problem starts with personnel. The Browns would be an infinitely better team if they only took advantage of their players' strengths. I've said it before and I maintain my original position - there is tons of talent and potential hidden throughout this team. What's been killing the Browns this season is failing to maximize that talent and turn it into production.

Rob Chudzinski and the Browns' coaching staff are stubborn. Chudzinski's greatest weakness as a coordinator is his inability to adapt. Like trying fitting a square peg into a round hole, Chud continuously takes the offensive personnel on this team and applies them to his system - regardless if they properly fit. There are two great examples in Jamal Lewis and Kellen Winslow. Jamal's running style and and lack of ellusiveness make him best suited for two-back sets. Jamal cannot create on his own - so a fullback is absolutely necessary for him to have any success in this system. Seeing the Browns have one of the best run-blocking fullbacks in the NFL, it's common sense to use the two together - but no. Lewis constantly runs out of singleback sets and stretch plays.

Kellen Winslow is a receiver blessed with the size and strength to play tight end. Winslow has the speed to go with arguably the best set of hand in the NFL. Such a dynamic game-changing player should be the focal point of the Browns' offense. Winslow needs between 10-15 targets per game to best utilize the talent he brings to the roster. Kellen Winslow is a Terrell Owens or Larry Fitzgerald type who can constantly win regardless of coverage. For Kellen average 4.3 receptions per game to this point is a joke.

What the Browns need to do offensively is establish an identity, and that starts with the running game.

Based on the personnel available on this roster, the Cleveland Browns are best suited running an aerial-based possession style of offense. Since the Browns have finally committed to Brady Quinn as the future quarterback, it is essential to build the offense around his strengths and weaknessess. Quinn has shown the ability to make good decisions and accurate throws in the short to mid-range passing game. It is critical for Phil Savage, the head coach, and Rob Chudzinski to build the offense around Brady Quinn. This means, the running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers all need the necessary skillsets to support that offensive philosphy.

In a west-coast type passing attack, running backs H-backs, and fullbacks must be able to catch the ball out of the backfield and possess the ability to create yards after the catch. Such a system obviously favors a feature back like Jerome Harrison, who has continuously proven he posesses big play ability and the speed necessary to thrive in such a scheme.

Since Harrison is a relatively smaller back (5'9, 205lbs), the Browns would need a short yardage back to compliment Harrison's speed and agility. Enter Lawrence Vickers. I've said it before, but Vickers is a sensational talent. He has the hands to become part of the passing attack, the size (6'0, 250lbs) to gain the tough yards, and the vision to remain an excellent lead blocker. The Browns would be best served to use Lawrence Vickers in conjunction with Jerome Harrison to form a running back tandem. Together, the two runners give the Browns unlimited options for creativity in the running game alone. The split back formation, the strong-I formation, and the weak-I formations would become base sets for the Browns. The conversion of the offense would be a tremendous aide in pass protection - an area the Browns have struggled with from the running back position.

Staying with the offense, the wide receiver play is paramount to a successful offense - regardless of the change in philosophy. Speed and consistency are a huge part of the short-range passing game, so players like Braylon Edwards and Syndric Steptoe should be counted on to get open and use their ability to create after the catch.

Offense Review
  • Kellen Winslow 10-15 targets per game
  • Build around Brady Quinn's strengths
  • Harrison/Vickers running back tandem
  • Continuous solid wide receiver play



Thank you to everyone for reading. Keep an eye out for the second of this two part series entitled, "Fixing the Cleveland Browns' Defense."
Posted on: November 23, 2008 5:28 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2008 9:03 pm
 

Week 12: 'Tis the Season for Giving


Ahh yes, Thanksgiving. It is the season for family, generosity, and celebrating the past. The game between the Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns provided a perfect microcosm of the holiday - and I can't help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside because of it.

Family
For two out of division teams, the Browns are so close they should be considered relatives. The two teams have exchanged so much personnel over the last few seasons. On the Browns, Shantee Orr, Robaire Smith, and offensive line coach Steve Marshall have all come from the Texans. Houston has former Browns Kevin Bentley, Chaun Thompson, and Andre Davis all starting on their roster.

Generosity
The Texans are notoriously generous - ranking dead last in turnover differential at -13. Their defense has allowed a charitable 28.7 points per game heading into Cleveland. Sage Rosenfels and the Texans desperately tried to give this game away with two costly turnovers. Despite that show of kindness, it was the hospitable Browns who outdid them in the end - turning the ball over 5 times in one game.

Celebrating the Past
Cleveland honored Browns teams of years past with an anemic offensive performance and a sickeningly soft defense. Their play today was so nostalgic of the expansion Browns team, I almost shed a tear. The Texans also did their best honoring their sub-.500 ancestors, however they fell short and won the game.



The Good
  • Lawrence Vickers performed well in his return from injury. Both Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis benefited from Vickers' vision - which provided an offensive spark the Browns needed to help sustain drives. One of the main problems with this offensive unit is pass protection. With Brady Quinn under center, Rob Chudzinski has placed an emphasis on pre-determined reads and short 3 step drops. It is critical the offensive linemen hold their blocks for that short amount of time necessary to make the completion.
  • Josh Cribbs: Captain Cribbs seems to be the only returning Pro Bowler from a year ago who actually wants to go back to Hawaii. Field position is critical for any offense, and the Browns were fortunate enough to have Cribbs back there setting the offense up. While he did not contribute much on the offensive side of the ball, Josh Cribbs played a good game and did his part when called upon.
  • D'Qwell Jackson: If there is one bright spot for this football team this season, it has to be the play of D'Qwell Jackson. D'Qwell has developed into a fine young linebacker for this football team. Jackson is constantly around the ball - taking good angles of pursuit and making sound tackles when the ball comes his way. Unlike teammates Willie McGinest and Andra Davis, D'Qwell Jackson actually likes contact. It's certainly encouraging to see such a player play the linebacker position how it's supposed to be played.
  • Corey Williams played well today. He was stout in run defense and played a key part in generating what little pressure the Browns created. Williams must have taken what defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said to heart about tackling, because he did not miss a tackle. Corey wrapped up and delivered on what Savage and the Browns had expected out of him since day one.
The Bad
  • Jamal Lewis did not play his best game of the year. Even when the offensive line created space, his choppy style of running took away from the big gains and resulted in a loss of potential yards. The uncharacteristic fumbles make me wonder if Lewis' best years are long behind him.
  • Pressure is the key to football. If you can handle the pressure, you have a good chance of being a successful offense. If you can create pressure, you have a good chance of being a successful defense. Unfortunately the Browns could not do either - which resulted in a poor showing on both sides of the ball. Pressure can make a great quarterback look awfully average, and an average quarterback awfully great. In short, that was the story of this game.
  • Rob Chudzinski: While I can't fault Chud for calling a horrible game, there were things that left me scratching my head. Brady Quinn has proven himself comfortable with the short passing game and making quick, short decisions over the middle. How then, is it possible Kellen Winslow's only catch of the game came from Derek Anderson in the fourth quarter? The great coordinators play to the strengths of their personnel, and Chudzinski did a poor job of doing that this afternoon.
The Ugly
  • Braylon Edwards: Edwards appeared lost on not only the timing, but the execution of his routes. Braylon did not show good burst off the line, nor did he use his body to protect the ball on the short slants underneath. His routes were sloppy and his field awareness inconsistent. Braylon lacked focus and concentration - as apparent by the 4 dropped passes today. While his overall stats may have appeased fantasy owners, the reality of his performance left a lot to be desired.
  • Offensive Production: The Cleveland Browns mustered 6 total points in a game they so desperately needed. A win here would have put the team back on track at an outside shot at the postseason. Brady Quinn may be in his second start, but there is no excuse for managing only two field goals against one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL.


The quarterback switch at the end of the third quarter sealed Romeo Crennel's fate as Browns' Head Coach. Knowing what I do about this organization, he will most likely be fired in a couple days. It's unfortunate, but someone has to take responsibility for the disappointing season which started off so promising.

Maybe change like this will be good for the team. As of now, the Cleveland Browns are a mess of a football team, and we desperately need someone to come in and clean this up.
Posted on: October 10, 2008 2:47 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2008 4:54 pm
 

The Cleveland Browns' Best Offensive Player is...


...not a wide receiver. He is not a quarterback tight end, halfback, or offensive lineman.

Stumped?

Cleveland's best offensive player is a 6 foot, 250 pound bruising fullback who goes by the name of Lawrence Vickers.

The Browns have struggled early on in the young season to find an offensive groove. Superstar wide receiver Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson have gotten off to a slow start. Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow is non-existent in the passing game, and the offensive line as a whole has shown relapses from their stellar 2007 season. The only glimmer of hope and constancy for the Browns has been the play of the 6th round draft pick from Colorado.

Vickers is a punishing blocker whose ability to drive defenders away from the play makes him one of the best at his position in the game. On any given rushing play, it is easy to spot the stout Vickers - either busting up a linebacker at the next level or sealing off the back end of a long run. He shines in pass protection, and has the vision required to make the key lead blocks.

All this, and no one talks about him.

This is because playing fullback in the National Football League is a thankless position. They do most of the work, yet receive none of the credit. They put the team in front of themselves and their bodies in hopes of collectively achieving something special. In short - a fullback is the ultimate team player.

There is a saying behind every great man, there is a great woman.

In the NFL, in front of every great running back, there is a great fullback.

Jamal Lewis certainly had a great season in 2007, rushing for 1,304 yards and 9 touchdowns. When asked about his fellow tailback, Lewis had nothing but good things to say.

"Lawrence is a great fullback who has come a long way in a short period of time," running back Jamal Lewis said.

"I put my trust in him, and he puts his trust in me."

Backup Jason Wright seems to agree. Wright had limited time with the first team last season, but during his reps he was able to recognize the tremendous talent Vickers brought to the team.

"As a running back, you like a fullback like Lawrence," Wright said. "He reads things like he was a ball carrier because he has carried the ball. When you're going up into the hole, you know that he's seeing the same thing you're seeing. So you know how he's going to react and you can act accordingly."

Wright was referring to Vickers' sensational high school career as a running back. Vickers was the starting tailback for the Houston-based Forest Brook High School Jaguars. During his four year career, Vickers rushed for over 4,600 yards on 345 carries (averaging 13.4 YPC) while accumulating a whopping 70 touchdowns en route to two playoff births in the football-crazed state of Texas.

With the past success Vickers has garnered, it would be easy to assume the lack of statistic success in the Pros would leave him bitter and jealous.

It is just the opposite.

"All players talk about being selfless, but in truth, a lot of us aren't," Wright said with a smile. "We want the stats and all that stuff."

"But Lawrence really is selfless. He doesn't think about himself."

Vickers' team-first attitude along with his physical style of football make him the best offensive player on the Cleveland Browns' roster.

Sources
  1. King, Steve. "Vickers combines punch, agility". 6/12/08 from ClevelandBrowns.com [http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/arti
    cle.php?id=8516] Accessed October 10th, 2008
  2. Lawrence Vickers Biography from ClevelandBrowns.com [http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/team
    /player.php?id=501] Accessed October 10th, 2008
  3. New York Giants defensive statistics courtesy of NFL.com [http://www.nfl.com/teams/newyorkgia
    nts/depthchart?team=NYG] Accessed October 10th, 2008



The Browns will need Lawrence Vickers and the rest of the offensive line more than ever Monday night when the undefeated Giants come to Cleveland Browns Stadium in a must-win game on Monday night. The Giants are known for a relentless pass rush which is tied for 3rd in the league with 15 quarterback sacks.

This tenacity comes at a price.

The average weight of a starting New York Giants' linebacker is 238 pounds - 290 for the defensive line. For the Browns to be successful against a tough New York front seven, they will need to make their presence felt at the line of scrimmage by pounding the ball directly at the Giants defenders.

Running the ball with Jamal Lewis to the left side of the offensive line seems to be the best strategy. Undersized defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (6'5", 265lbs) will match up against Pro Bowler Joe Thomas (6'6", 303lbs) in what will be the most interesting contest of the day. Kiwanuka's pass rush ability may get the best of the young tackle, but Thomas will undoubtedly make up for that in the running game. Couple the strong side of the offensive line with two bruising backs in Vickers and Lewis - and you have the makings of an advantage the Browns should be able to ride to victory.

Bold Predictions
  • If Jamal Lewis carries the ball over 22 times on Monday night, the Browns will win.
  • If Brandon Jacobs carries the ball over 22 times on Monday night, the Browns will lose.
  • If Braylon Edwards records over 8 receptions, the Browns will win.
  • Final Score: New York 20, Cleveland 24

Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com