Game 4 Preview – Browns at Ravens

26 Sep

Preview of Game #4 – Cleveland @ Baltimore

Perhaps a short workweek will help the Browns forget about their loss against Buffalo.  The team faces the Ravens on the road, and this may be their hardest game on the schedule.  It will take heroic efforts from all areas of the team in order to score the upset, but the odds of that occurring are stacked against the Browns.

Offense:  You can bet that the Ravens will throw the kitchen sink at Brandon Weeden.  The rookie will be challenged to read the pre-snap defense correctly, put the team in the best situation each play (play call-wise), and get the ball out of his hand quickly.  The Ravens continual, defensive dominance includes the element of intimidation in order to get the opposing team out of rhythm.  To be successful, Weeden must keep the offense composed no matter the situation.  There are many young athletes that will be in the huddle who could make a costly mistake out of emotion (i.e. frustration).  Additionally, the Ravens’ defense can seemingly intercept any pass and return it for a touchdown.  From his first throw to his final one, the quarterback has got to be aware of the opposing secondary and be smart when throwing to his intended targets.  This includes deeper passes – Weeden must start connecting on these for the sake of having an offense that can score (several touchdowns per game) regularly.

Trent Richardson did not put up great stats against the Bills and this will likely continue Thursday night.  The Ravens only gave up seventy-seven rushing yards against the Patriots, who boost a stellar offense.  I hope Shurmur is patient with Richardson in this game; it appeared that the rookie was playing better in the second half before his carries stopped.  I do not think he will have a Peyton Hillis-like performance in 2010 (over 140 yards rushing), but if he can put the team in easier situations for Weeden and the offense, that could be huge for the team.  This would open up the play book as well – in addition to five or seven-step drops, the team could employ three-step drops, where a play can be made quickly and the probability of a sack are low.  I liked seeing the dual backfield of Ogbonnaya and Richardson last week.  It gives the offense two rushing and receiving options; I also have faith the two can help in pass protection as well.  Ogbonnaya can possibly play a larger role this week, as the Ravens’ rush defense is very physical and want to make it miserable for Richardson.

Pat Shurmur’s comments regarding the issues surrounding Greg Little have been scrutinized, and I will be curious to see how he handles the second year veteran.  Shurmur stated Little has got to catch the football and won’t play if the drops continue.  Additionally, the coach said he has talked to receiver about his antics (i.e. celebrating after getting a first down, while losing).  Will little be benched this week – implying he needs to get better?  Could a point be made that he is not bigger than the team, and therefore his role is reduced?  If Little loses time, which receiver fills that void (Cribbs, Norwood, Gordon, etc)?  The Browns have got to get production from this unit no matter who is out there – the Patriots had two receivers with over one hundred yards each against the Ravens.  I know Cleveland does not boast wide outs as talented as Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, but there is a possibility a receiver or two could have a solid performance (provided Weeden is given time to throw).

The front seven of the Baltimore Ravens, last week, produced two sacks and a fumble.  It won’t be easy for the offensive line of the Browns, and they must play exceptional in all aspects of their game.  Giving Richardson time and room to run is paramount – I envision more double teams employed up the middle to prevent the linebackers blowing by the offensive line and stopping the Browns’ running attack early.   Likewise Weeden needs opportunities to throw downfield, and chip blocking could be used during the longer passing plays.  I think the line can have success; but like the quarterback position, one small error can lead to a turnover, touchdown, and a huge momentum shift.

Defense:  Ray Rice gashed the defense for over two hundred rushing yards against last season.  It appears the Browns’ have done little to improve in this department, as opponents are running at will this year.  If the unit cannot contain Rice, this game could get out of hand early.  Not being able to stop your opponent is deflating, however its magnified knowing the defense will on the field more creating fewer opportunities to score (in the game).  I’m hoping John Hughes has a bounce-back performance – Phil Taylor cannot come back soon enough as the rookie has had an up-and-down season thus far.  Also, the line did not put pressure on the opponent last week; this is a dire need and a way to overcome some deficiencies the Browns exhibit (i.e. run stopping and pass coverage).  Perhaps this is the week the defensive ends exceed expectations and Jabaal Sheard, Frostee Rucker, and Juqua Parker garner a few sacks.

The linebacker unit needs a consistent player alongside Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson – L.J. Fort had a good opening game but has been used more in special teams the past two weeks, and Scott Fujita is not in many snaps.  Thursday night might be the first appearance for rookie James Michael-Johnson, which could be a boost for the linebacker corps.  Having another healthy athlete available is very important, as it keeps the rotational players fresher.  Also, depth is needed when playing a physical running team where, more than likely, bumps and bruises will occur for the linebackers.  I’m intrigued to see if the rookie from Nevada can help in coverage against Dennis Pitta, who has become a reliable target for the Ravens.  Ray Rice must also be accounted for in the passing game – he is one of the best receivers at the running back position.

Browns fans’ expectations for the secondary should not be too high – this part of the team has struggled, giving up many yards and several touchdowns the last two games.  Forcing a Joe Flacco mistake and getting a turnover (i.e. an interception) will help this unit’s confidence though.  However, facing Torrey Smith (who is coming off a great, emotional performance), Jacoby Jones, and Anquan Boldin could be the secondary’s biggest challenge this season.  Not playing aggressive (during Joe Haden’s absence) has been ineffective this season– I hope they change it up and move the cornerbacks closer to the line of scrimmage.  Buster Skrine, Tashaun Gipson, and to a lesser extent Usama Young have the speed to stay with the wide receivers; it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Special Teams:  Not too many arguments here from the previous week, outside of Reggie Hodges getting a little more distance and hang time on his punts, and better punt coverage. Stopping Jacoby Jones should be the key this week; the punt returner has taken back a couple for touchdowns the last few seasons.  Assuming this is a lower scoring game, winning the special teams battle could be the difference between a win and a loss.

Coaching:  Correct offensive play calling is crucial this game; being down seven or fourteen is not cause to start airing it out.  In the past, this has lead to turnovers and a larger deficit for teams facing the Ravens.  Sticking with the run is a part of this philosophy – it will not be pretty but the Browns should not get discouraged, as they were last week.  Defensively, it will not be like last week where the Browns were trying to force their opponent to be one-dimensional (i.e. passing over running).  The Ravens are stout in both areas, and Dick Jauron must find the right mix of play calling not to get torched by Flacco or Rice.

Prediction (My Record 1-2):  After thinking the Browns could win the previous two weeks, I have changed my tune for the game against Baltimore.  The Browns have kept it close, for the most part, every game and had a chance to pull out a win.  However, M&T Bank Stadium is a tough place to play – the Ravens just won a huge game on Sunday against the Patriots, and I don’t think they have a letdown.  The Browns lose 34-10 this week and have ten days to think about this outcome before their next game.


Posted by on September 26, 2012 in NFL Season


4 responses to “Game 4 Preview – Browns at Ravens

  1. ryansponseller

    September 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

    We need to have Cribbs be the spark, he’s had a very average season and is the public heart of this team. If he can start that swagger, they’ve got a chance. If it’s the same old woe is me BS, then this season will continue to slide.

    • edubs1983

      September 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      Well, I hope now he’s got another chip on his shoulder when he returns from his injury. I’ll be happy if they keep using him situationally in the offense – those quick hitters are working for several yards at the least.

  2. Pete S.

    September 27, 2012 at 11:00 am

    See attached article. Is Shurmur another Singletary, who had talent on the team, but couldn’t coach them to wins??

    That should be the theme of the Cleveland Browns under the leadership of Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur.

    On face value, I agree 100 percent with that statement. There are seldom quick fixes in the NFL that have any real staying power. I agree with the plan to build through the draft and not go crazy throwing cash at free agents.

    It just seems like the “process” could involve a little more winning than it currently does.

    When you look around the league there are good teams, mediocre teams and bad teams. Within those groups just about every team can be seen as trending up or down. The Steelers, while still good, are trending down. The Cardinals, who were mediocre, are trending up. The Bengals, who two years ago were at the absolute bottom of the league, are now good and continuing to trend up.

    The Browns, on the other hand, are just bad. I want so desperately to believe that they are trending up, that they’re getting better. But the fact is that they’re 0-3 for the fourth time in five years, are widely regarded as the worst team in the NFL, and dismissed without a thought nationally.

    Even the expansion Cleveland Browns, who literally started with nothing and led by an incompetent GM finished 7-9 in Year 3 and made the playoffs in year 4.

    Virtually no one believes that is even a remote possibility for this team at this point.

    The most disturbing thing to me about Shurmur as a coach so far is the astonishingly high number of times the Browns show up to a game seemingly unprepared to play, as was the case Sunday against the Bills. In 19 games as the head coach of the Browns, Shurmur’s offense has failed to score a first-quarter touchdown in 17 of those games!!!

    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    There is supposed to be the great mass of genius offensive coaching minds in Berea with Shurmur, Holmgren, Brad Childress, Gil Haskell and Mark Whipple. Yet this team continues to play abysmal offensive football.

    I don’t believe that the talent on this team is all that bad. They’re young, for sure, but there is a lot of talent that needs to be coached up. That doesn’t appear to be happening.

    Take Greg Little for example. It’s clear that he is physically talented player. For a rookie he was quite productive last year. It appears, however, that he has not developed at all this season from where he left off in January.

    Did I miss something? Were the players locked out again this summer?

    Speaking of Little also brings up another difficult issue in the Shurmur regime. Little is the third high profile player to have, we’ll call them “issues” that end up in the media.

    Last year it was Peyton Hillis and his sore throat as well as Joshua Cribbs complaining about his role on the team. Then this year there’s the issue of Little and his Usain Bolt pose.

    (The Usain Bolt pose thing spawned just some fantastically hilarious Twitter action earlier this week. While playing quarterback for the scout team in my football practice on Monday I threw down a fantastic Usain Bolt pose after one of my “blind squirrel finds a nut” great passes. Being that I live in Wisconsin, none of my players got the joke but they laughed anyways because that’s what high schoolers do when their coach does something he obviously finds very funny.)

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
    The manner in which Shurmur has gone about dealing with these issues has left many fans with the feeling that he does not have control of the locker room.

    And then there are his press conferences…or really any time he opens up his mouth to talk when there are microphones around. Pat Shurmur is about as uninspiring of an individual as there could possibly be. I know that being a “rah-rah” guy is not a requirement for being a successful coach, just look at Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy.

    But the coach’s personality has to be one that inspires his players to point that they’re ready to play and run through a wall for him.

    Every coach needs to be “genuine” as Pat says. You can’t be something you’re not, players will see right through the façade.

    But what that might mean is that some guys just are not cut out to be head coaches in the NFL.

    Each of these issues on their own might not seem like a lot. But as a totality, they are huge and it becomes clearer every week that Shurmur is losing his grip on the team.

    His comments to the media this week sounded like a man who was struggling to get a grip on a situation that way over his head.

    And that’s exactly what I believe Pat Shurmur is: way over his head.

    I hope I’m not right, but I don’t think Shurmur will be the coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2013 if he even lasts through this season.

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
    I take no joy in the Browns continuing the carousel of coaches and want so desperately for them to find the guy. I just don’t think Pat Shurmur is that guy.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    On that happy note, on to the Week 4 lines…

    (Gamble at your own risk. Home team in CAPS. Lines from

  3. edubs1983

    September 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I agree with the Shurmur argument – he can easily resemble a Mike Singletary-like coach. I think another coach can take this roster and perform better than what we are currently seeing. The slow starts are hard to fathom and few teams (maybe the Packers or Patriots) can continually get out of early holes.

    This roster is generally young and can be molded – the head coach is typically the man the team can center around, where there’s no outspoken leaders like a Ray Lewis. Shurmur has been getting more vocal, whether he’s developing into a more demonstrative role or is just frustrated, is still uncertain.

    I really like to think this team is trending up – sure they aren’t winning right now, but they are not losing 41-9 like an Eric Mangini-led team either. I just hope the young players’ confidence isn’t shot at the end of the season if things aren’t going as expected.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: