Cleveland Browns Bye Week
Just after the halfway point of the season, and the Browns get time off to heal and prepare for several critical matchups. As the cliché goes, it comes at a great time for the franchise. Greg Little, Jason Campbell, Quentin Groves, and a few other members will avoid further injuries by not having to play this Sunday. There are a couple of goals that I hope the Browns accomplish over these next two weeks; assuming they can do these, I envision a successful remainder of their 2013 season.
Adding Offensive Parts: With the rash of injuries to quarterbacks this season, including Brian Hoyer already, the Browns must have a serviceable backup. Watching the Packers-Bears game on Monday, both teams were forced to employ their backup signal caller. Obviously, teams can win games in the NFL without spectacular quarterback play, but the franchise must excel greatly in other areas (i.e. running the ball, defense, etc.). It’s a rather difficult task to replicate (against other professionals) on a weekly basis, however.
That brings us to Brandon Weeden. The former incumbent at quarterback has the look of a man without confidence when he is on the field. I think he could be kept on the roster for the remainder of the season, but I support the Browns adding another signal caller over their bye week. Clearly, if Lombardi and Banner scour the free agent market, they will not find a guy like Tom Brady – but if they can secure a confident guy who can make a play or two then the Browns may feel much better going forward.
As mentioned earlier, other areas of the team must be great when the guy under center is not dominant. Fortunately, Jason Campbell has been exceptional these past two games – but it’s hard to fathom that will be the norm. They got away with their leading rusher accruing thirty-one yards on the ground. I am not anticipating the Browns will sign an all-Pro runner, but they need to find a guy who can get more than three yards per carry. Per Chud’s Tuesday press conference, this may be as simple as giving Chris Ogbonnaya more carries. Even a mediocre output by the running attack, and the passing game will not have to be relied upon to routinely have huge days.
Getting a Few Guys Up to Speed: A couple of new members on the roster will get a few days to learn the playbook and get on the field. Armanti Edwards is one of those guys; his role last week was strictly a punt returner. However, I bet this will expand down the road – as the former Appalachian State quarterback will attempt to emulate Travis Benjamin’s duty as a wide receiver. He will not get a ton of opportunities, so he must ensure he knows what he’s doing and can pick up yards. Fortunately, he has played under Chud previously – that familiarity could lead to the speedster picking up the offense quicker than most. Jordan Poyer is another recent pickup; the cornerback contributed in special teams against the Ravens but that could change should he continue to prove his value.
Additionally, any new acquisitions must study hard and absorb what Chud, Norv Turner, and Ray Horton are trying to accomplish. Should the Browns get a quarterback and running back, the latter will obviously need less time to get accustomed. Therefore, the back should expect to get a fair amount of touches the next contest. The signal caller would be an insurance policy for the offense, and as a result not be needed for some time (hopefully). Despite roster turnover, the team will remain confident in the new players – once they prove they know their status on the Browns. A united locker room is paramount for this process.
Further Establish the Team’s Identity: Getting a win over the Steelers last season was the beginning, and now the Browns have beaten both rivals in the Bengals and Ravens. They are starting to win games that matter; within the division. Chud stated last week that they wanted to no longer be the “little brother” in the AFC North. Joe Haden said they were not playing “the Ravens of old”. Both of these quotes are phenominal to hear, but actually securing the win spoke the loudest about the change in perception about this team.
Two quiet captains for the Browns are Joe Thomas and D’Qwell Jackson. After playing several seasons with the team (with limited success), they must be vocal to others about not getting pushed around. This message seems to have been received; based on the vicious play of Phil Taylor and Greg Little. Both have been in altercations with members of the Ravens and neither backed down. I am not a fan of personal foul penalties, but sometimes they are necessary for your team to prove a point. The Browns are starting to become the aggressors, and I do not expect this to stop.
Conclusion: The front office and coaching staff must work together to bring in a few guys in that will help the team the rest of the season, and their recent track record gives me hope. I also have all the faith in the world that the coaches will not over burden any newcomers, something that could not be said about previous regimes. This group of athletes is strong, on the same page, and is finally starting to see success. I worry about this team rallying around a possible fourth quarterback in the same year, but if a new guy makes plays then all will be on board. Hopefully that becomes a moot point though.