Browns vs. Buccaneers – A Preview of Game #8
The Browns have another home contest after a sloppy victory over the winless Raiders. Will they have a letdown, similar to the Ravens defeat after the win over the Saints? Hopefully that is not the case – especially because many feel this week’s opponent is far from exceptional. All that said, the Browns still have to go out there and make plays. Let’s delve further into this winnable contest.
Offense: It has not been pretty for parts of the season, but Brian Hoyer is getting it done. He is leading this offense to a 4 – 3 record with a good shot of a long winning streak. The quarterback feeds off the energy at First Energy Stadium, and why shouldn’t this continue. The signal caller should find the end zone on at least two occasions this Sunday and put his team in spots where they can succeed. If he can eliminate the mental mistakes again, I like the home team’s chances in winning this contest.
I hope the players and coaches study last week’s game film over and over. They must make a joint effort in fixing their running attack. Not only will it make third downs more manageable, play-action passes open up much easier with a noticable threat of a run. How are carries going to be divvied up this week? Once again, I could not care less – provided the Browns’ backs perform well. My favorite tandem is Tate getting carries early to soften up the defense, while Crowell breezes by a tired bunch. None of that can happen without early success – that will be the key.
Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel have displayed abilities to haul in long passes, as well as turning hitches into lengthy gainers. Jordan Cameron will likely miss this contest with a concussion, so Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge will have a shot to make their mark. Will Travis Benjamin be employed more at wide out in this contest? I can see that occurring, as he gives this offense great speed outside. Miles Austin is left as the possession receiver; I want to see him secure a few huge receptions (similar to the ones last week).
Defense: The injury brigade continues for the defensive line; John Hughes is the latest guy who will miss significant time. Ahtyba Rubin, Desmond Bryant, and Billy Winn must hold down the fort on Sunday. Additionally, they may need an under-the-radar guy or two to fill in and make critical stops (Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Sione Fua come to mind). They are finally getting better as a unit – but all the injuries are stunting their development. Trying to take down Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey will not be an easy task; early stops in the first quarter might dictate the opposing play calls later on.
I have been rather content with the solid play by veteran Paul Kruger. The linebacker surpassed his sack total from last year already, and has been excellent in setting the edge against running plays. Barkevious Mingo has been disappointing to this point, but perhaps his fumble recovery last week will spark a run of improved play. Karlos Dansby continues to show veteran leadership, while Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey have been getting better over the past few weeks. Now, the guys on the inside need to make a play that stands out in this contest – be it a pick-six, fumble recovery, or huge sack.
In the continued theme of improvement, the secondary has been standing out in various ways. Tashaun Gipson is an interception machine, while Donte Whitner’s forceful tackles have been impactful for this defense. Will Buster Skrine and Justin Gilbert continue on their way to becoming viable NFL cornerbacks? This week should be one where they can lock down targets like Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Louis Murphy. Bottom line is they can and should intercept Mike Glennon and refrain from allowing long passing plays.
Special Teams: Who will be returning punts for the Cleveland Browns? I wouldn’t mind seeing what Justin Gilbert, Taylor Gabriel, or even Johnson Bademosi could do back there. Jim Leonhard should be used sparingly, but there has been a need to see him full-time. All other units have been fine, and I am pulling for that to continue on Sunday.
Coaching: Offensively, the Browns must use the run to set up the pass. If it’s not effective early, I still want them to go back to it for moderate stretches of the game. Defensively, they must find a way to get heat on Glennon and disrupt the pocket. When they were finally able to do that last week, Derek Carr either got sacked or turned over the football. It appears for a recipe for success.
Prediction (My Record: 5 – 2): I foresee a similar type of game against the Buccaneers (as last week). It will look ugly early, and then the Browns finally pull away late. The home team earns a 23 – 16 win and heads into a short week for a huge divisional contest.