Browns’ Bye Week: To Do List
It’s an early one, but the Browns get their bye week and do not return to action until October. Being 1-2 proves they are far from great, but what steps can be taken to transform this bunch to habitual losers into (at least) a better-than-average bunch? I thought of a couple, hopefully the locker room is reading this…
#1 – Figure out the Special Teams
There have been a multitude of errors occurring by the special team units in the first three contests. Bad coverage on punts, horrible execution by the field goal team and negative yardage during punt returns. I could see some personnel changes (mainly Christian Yount and Travis Benjamin) made for the Titans game. Should the coaching staff stick with the same guys, Chris Tabor better be certain that those athletes can get it right going forward.
#2 – Determine the Pecking Order at Running Back
With Ben Tate likely back in the fold, the large question will be – who is getting the rushing attempts? Will the veteran steal a bulk of the carries from the two rookies? The situation appears up in the air, as Pettine hinted that West and Crowell “made it difficult” to re-insert Ben Tate as the starter. Like the quarterback position, I could not care who is on the field – as long as they perform. It’s up to Shanahan and Pettine to figure out who works best and when.
#3 – Find Out Why the Run Defense is Poor and Fix it
On paper, this was one of the best defensive fronts for the Cleveland Browns in some time. However, they certainly are not playing like it and have been surrendering a great deal of yards on the ground. Are guys out of shape and getting tired? Are opponents blocking exceptionally, yielding a solid running attack? Whatever the reason, the Browns must diagnose the issue via film study and find solutions (players, schemes, etc.) to improve upon a part of the game few felt there would be problems.
#4 – Get Guys Who Can Defend the Pass
Joe Haden and the number eighth overall draft pick as starting cornerbacks; so all is well, correct? The corners have let the Browns’ defense down in each of the first three contests. Stars like Antonio Brown, Jimmy Graham, and Steve Smith Sr. have hauled in tosses when it matters most – and with relative ease. To quote Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on here?” The duo on the outside must lock down opposing targets or the Browns will have another four or five win season. Granted the rules have made defending wide outs difficult, but a player of Joe Haden’s caliber must outperform his current play.
#5 – Don’t Stay “Down”
I’ll admit being guilty of this, but the Browns must not hang their heads over two tough division losses. Will they win the AFC North this year? No, but can they compete for a Wildcard spot? Perhaps – assuming they can forget about weeks one through three and focus on the next opponent. The Tennessee Titans appear to be a squad the Browns can get back on track against, via both the win column and confidence within the organization.
Conclusion: The two losses have been a huge punch to the gut, and moral victories are for losers (as well as “looking better” and “improving”). The NFL is, and has been for a while, a results-driven league. The Browns have had one of the worst win/loss records almost every year since 1999. It’s time for these near misses to stop and win some games. The Browns have at least thirteen more contests in 2014 – they better come out preparing to win every single one.