Browns @ Bengals – Game 2 Preview

13 Sep

Cleveland @ Cincinnati – Game #2 Preview

The Browns go on the road for the first time on Sunday and it’s also a divisional game – these are critical if the franchise wants to see progress.  Recently, there have been several seasons for the Browns without winning a divisional game (0-6), including last year.  If the team is truly going in the right direction, a win against the Bengals would be a nice, first step.

Offense:  Sunday cannot come soon enough; I am over the performance of Brandon Weeden last week and want to see how he responds.  I am confident the rookie quarterback can shake off what occurred at home and can start hitting on his easier throws (some of the issues were from the receivers not executing and some were Weeden lacking touch).  To see if he really learned from watching the Eagles’ game film, the quarterback has to break his routine of locking his eyes on to a receiver, thus tipping off the defense and likely leading to an interception.  Joe Flacco had a tremendous passing game against the Bengals on Monday night – granted he is on a better team, but it gives me hope Weeden can put up decent numbers in his second game.  I can guarantee you he does not throw four interceptions, but I’m not too confident he will pass for over 300 yards either.

Likewise, I look forward to seeing Trent Richardson tote the football once again.  Assuming he received a valuable learning experience, the running back should understand how fast the NFL is and how quickly running lanes close up.  The Ravens put up 122 yards on the ground against the Bengals in week one – however the leading rusher only put up sixty-eight by himself.  I do not expect Richardson to have a huge day in terms of yardage; I just hope he can be efficient.  This means picking up 3rd and 1 consistently – something that could not have be said the prior week.  If Trent is lacking explosion early (being he’s still not fully healed or just ineffective), I hope the Browns give Brandon Jackson a series or two of playing time.  This would be for a change of pace – whether the backup is getting carries or catches out of the backfield.  The team can then go back to the number-three overall pick later in the game; perhaps the rest and Jackson softening up the defense will be good for the team.  Judging from last week, this should not make the Browns’ running attack any worse.

I believe the receivers have the potential for success against the Bengals’ secondary.  The question is whether some of the guys can actually step up and make plays.  Greg Little was invisible (when he wasn’t dropping passes) last week and needs to become a reliable target if this passing game wants to have any success.  I could see the Browns running a few more routes over the middle, as the sideline throws were not open last week.  If the team can be successful at these, which will cause the defense to adjust and therefore Weeden will target other areas of the field (like deeper and sideline routes).  The tight ends did not do much in the game either – Jordan Cameron had a drop and Alex Smith was another open target missed by the quarterback.  This is a position that should be relied upon to gain moderate yards and set up shorter conversions for the offense.

This may sound like a broken record, but as the offensive line goes – so goes the entire offense.  The Browns can ill-afford to consistently lose the line of scrimmage battle; they currently do not have a quarterback who can win a game despite this.  I’m willing to be patient with the rookie and second-year players – however I am pulling for vast improvement this week.  Whether it’s keeping a tight end in to help the right tackle or using a running back to chip-block defensive ends, the Browns have got to make sure Weeden has time to throw and defenders are not there to greet Richardson in the backfield.

Defense:  It’s going to be hard to replicate the defense’s performance against the Eagles – I do not see the Browns forcing five turnovers again.  However, they can improve upon their rush defense, which gave up over one hundred yards to one guy yet again.  Facing a good running back like Benjarvus Green-Ellis will be a challenge for the defensive line.  It is going to be up to Aythba Rubin, Billy Winn, and John Hughes to win the point of attack in the middle of the field – forcing the Bengals’ running game outside.  Hopefully, then the defensive ends can continue to get up the field and prevent longer running plays.  Getting so much pressure from the front four was a great sight to see – a less mobile quarterback should yield (at least) similar results.  If Frostee Rucker and Jabaal Sheard play like they did last week, the Browns can make it difficult for the Bengals’ offense.

The linebackers will be challenged more in the passing game this week.  No offense to Brent Celek, (he’s a very good tight end) but the Bengals have a great target in Jermaine Gresham, whom is a threat for any defense.  Also, the Browns gave up several receptions to the running backs last week; Green-Ellis is not known as a great receiver, but the Bengals might add this as a part of their game plan.  Additionally, the corps have to step up in and fill the gaps against the Bengals’ running game.  The defensive line is not perfect and L.J. Fort, Craig Robertson, D’Qwell Jackson, and Kaluka Maiava must be in position to make a play so the secondary is not forced to make a tackle twenty yards or so downfield.

We all knew the Joe Haden suspension was coming, and it was handed down on Monday evening.  The cornerback will be out the next four games, and the Browns’ secondary (as a result) could have its problems.  Dimitri Patterson will move up to starter and Buster Skrine will now become the Nickel cornerback over the next month.  Last week, facing the number one receiver, Haden gave up a few big plays – you can bet the Bengals will force the ball to standout A.J. Green until the Browns can stop it.  If Dalton and Bengals’ offense have success in the air to their wide receivers, it could be a long day for the Browns’ secondary.  Also, losing Haden’s physicality will hurt the Browns as well; the opponent may try to see if his replacements can tackle and perform in bump coverage.

Special Teams:  I love Phil Dawson and the fact he’s such a solid kicker, but I want to see him kicking more extra points and less field goals.  I would be content with similar results in the coverage and punting units.  The same can be said for the return game as well, although a very long return by Josh Cribbs or another returner would not be the worst thing for this team.

Coaching:  The type of passing plays called by Pat Shurmur will be scrutinized heavily in this game, based upon the outcome of last week.  Will they tailor the offense to be more friendly to Weeden by giving him shorter, low risk (in terms of being intercepted) passes?  Also, Shurmur stated that he left in Richardson ten to twelve plays too many against the Eagles; it will be interesting to see if the team gives opportunities to other players this week.  As with many things in football, play calling comes into question more when a team loses – let’s hope there is no play calling debate after week two for the Browns.

Prediction (My record 1-0):  I think Weeden and the offense gets on track this week, the problem is how much of a drop-off for the defense (from week one) will occur.  I believe the Browns will be there at the end; like last game the outcome could likely be decided on a couple of plays.  I see the Browns pulling out a late victory 24-20.


Posted by on September 13, 2012 in NFL Season


6 responses to “Browns @ Bengals – Game 2 Preview

  1. Pete S.

    September 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I have 3 issues that I am struggling with:

    1. The entire offense needs to step up this week. Weeden needs to hit the open receivers and guys like Little need to catch the few throws that come their way. I’m tired of seeing the quick, slant pass over the middle to Little. Is this our only outlet pass when blitzed? We have 3 offense-minded coaches with Holmgren, Childress, and Shurmur and we still can’t seem to get receivers open or teach them to catch the ball. Holmgren told the media earlier this year that our receivers will catch the ball better this year (than last year)–it’s time to put up or shut-up.

    2. Shurmur’s short responses to the media are wearing on me. He hasn’t earned the right to be arrogant or matter-of-fact with the fans or the media. Until he can prove to everyone that he can gameplan successfully, manage the team during a game, and ultimately score more points and win some games, he needs to be a bit more humble. Belechick was the same way when he first became a head coach and found out that it is only after you have proven yourself out on the field, that you can afford to be direct with all. Until then, explain what you are doing and why. If you made a mistake during a game, admit to it and go on.

    3. Jimmy H. just resigned as CEO of his company because he is “all in” with his $1b investment. Holmgren still resides in Seattle where he spends the off season. Jimmy has got to be thinking that Mike never saw this as a long term job and that he is not truly committed to this city and this team. Speaking for myself, I would not want to build an organization around such a guy. My prediction is that Holmgren is gone the day after the NFL owners vote Jim in.

  2. edubs1983

    September 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for your comments, and sorry for your frustrations:

    1) – Agreed that the offense has got to move the ball consistently – beginning now. Although the slants were working early last week, it would be nice to see Weeden throw a couple different routes during his three-step drops (when being blitzed). To name a few: A quick fade could work against press coverage (assuming the receivers do not get jammed), a hitch works well against zone, and I would like to see one of the tight ends release up the field for a eight to ten yard completion.

    2) – I think many fans and the media share your feelings. Shurmur comes across as a grouch and egotistical. It seems like every week, he will give a statement about the team’s game plan and that it will work, only for it to blow up in his face. Accountability is not there for the head coach and this must change – whether he is the Cleveland Browns coach or an assistant on another team.

    3) – I’m very excited to finally have an owner who has business smarts and is passionate for the sport – the fact he was willing to step down from Pilot J only reinforced my stance. I expect Haslam to make big changes in the offseason – the front office may be the first one. Whether he buys out or fires Holmgren, I would not be surprised if it occurred next month.

    • Pete S

      September 13, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      The story circulating in Cleveland is that Holmgren is a Randy Lerner asset, and that if Haslam let’s him go that Lerner will be responsible for the payout of his contract money.

      • edubs1983

        September 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm

        That makes sense, considering Lerner’s history – the former owner paid coaches, GMs, presidents, etc. (i.e. Davis, Savage, Crennel, Mangini) their entire contract while paying a replacement as well.

  3. ryansponseller

    September 15, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Sadly this isn’t the same defense that Derek Anderson put 50+ on a few years back. The Bengals actually gave up fewer yards rushing and passing than the Eagles in 2011, residing in the top third for these team defense statistics. The Bengals only lost to playoff teams last year, so if the Browns can pull this one out, I will completely forget the mess that was week 1.

  4. edubs1983

    September 16, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Indeed, this weeks offense will be all about efficiency – gotta get the yards when it counts. The Browns don’t need to have huge numbers by Weeden and Richardson, just enough to continue drives and getting TDs over FGs.


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