Browns @ Chargers – A Preview of Game #4
A bad loss, poor play, and a report that players want a different quarterback under center than the guy who is currently there – all is right in the NFL world for the Cleveland Browns. It usually takes the franchise many weeks (or at least well into October) before the wheels fall off, yet they might have set a new record in 2015. Nonetheless, the team still has to go out there and play an away game versus a better team. What can we expect from them?
Quarterback: My faith in Josh McCown as the Browns’ quarterback was never really high to begin with; two losses under center help to lower my belief that he is a viable option. I understand that he moved the ball and made some plays last week – but it was when the team was multiple scores down (and the defense was in the prevent mode). I have been advocating putting in Johnny Manziel to both give this offense a spark and, more importantly, to see whether he appears to be the signal caller of the future. Alas, that will not be the case – and fans will be treated to likely a touchdown or two as well as a couple costly turnovers.
Running Back: What is going on with the running backs? Isaiah Crowell cannot find open holes to run, while Duke Johnson gets blown up trying to block defenders. Maybe the Robert Turbin signing was not a bad idea for this franchise – however it will be still a few weeks until he hits the field. The coaching staff has got to find a way to get this part of the team going. The Browns cannot have their quarterback heaving the ball nearly fifty times a game (regardless of who it is). I will continue to be skeptical until they prove me wrong, but I do not envision Crowell and Johnson combining to eclipse the century mark yardage-wise.
Wide Receiver: One positive from last week’s debacle was that other targets not named Travis Benjamin got involved. Brian Hartline is a security blanket and the signal caller should be keying in on the veteran in situations where a reception is vital (mostly third downs). I would like to see Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins get more involved; the coach’s mantra (words into actions) applies to this occurring though. I figure to see at least one score from this group – consistently beating their secondary would be nice to see as well.
Tight End: Gary Barnidge is attempting to emulate Jordan Cameron – a dependable receiving tight end who is allergic to blocking. He displayed both last week, and should be put more in situations to catch the ball. It’s time to take Rob Housler off the field and put in rookie E.J. Bibbs – the former Cyclone might not be the next Rob Gronkowski, but I believe he can be an improvement over the veteran who was acquired a few months ago. Overall this unit is playing slightly better than expected; perhaps Bibbs can alter that to well above expectations.
Offensive Line: I have seen some horrible offensive lines in my day, and most have been donning the orange and brown. However, this year is different in that the outlook was through the roof for this unit. There is no push, holes are hard to come by, and they have been only adequate in pass protection. Just as depressing, I do not believe rookie first-round draft pick Cameron Erving can make much of a difference either. My hope in the guys upfront is wavering – the staff must fix this deficiency or the team should not anticipate winning more than a couple more games this campaign.
Defensive Line: The definition of insanity applies to the defensive line of the Cleveland Browns. They are continuing to try to stop the run and it is not working. I’m not going to place all of the blame on the three guys up front, as there are four more capable men behind them who can make tackles. However, the margin for error is rather small for this group – and mistakes like the one Xavier Cooper made last week are killer (jumping offside and allowing a giant hole for Latavius Murray to run through). Another one hundred yard rusher for the opponent is expected.
Linebacker: Losing Craig Robertson to an injury makes it vital that Chris Kirksey steps up this week. He surrendered a touchdown against the Raiders; hopefully he can get back on track on Sunday. No other linebacker looked even decent last week (I understand Karlos Dansby is playing through an injury). I really would like to see if Nate Orchard could oust Barkevious Mingo in the rotation off the edge; the coaches must feel otherwise. It’s been proven that this team needs to pressure signal callers to win contests – how that happens appears to be a mystery.
Secondary: Here is yet another underperforming area for the Browns; the three returning Pro Bowlers have looked lost on the gridiron. I give credit to Tramon Williams – his play has prevented the secondary from being the worst in the league. Maybe K’Waun Williams can return this week and give the unit a boost that is sorely needed. One thing to keep in mind is that almost any NFL quarterback can embarrass a defense; all he needs is time to throw and zero pressure. Being at the right place at the right time would be a good start for Joe Haden and the guys, though.
Special Teams: Following weeks of solid play, it all was bad last game. The Browns cannot surrender turnovers or commit penalties (giving additional possessions to the opponent) during special teams and expect to win. I predict that Chris Tabor will get this cleaned up this week, but that will likely not enough to earn a victory. All phases must excel to defeat the Chargers.
Coaching: If the team cannot run or stop the run, there’s not a lot the coaches can do. Hopefully they put McCown in spots to complete passes and move the offense. Defensively, they should try to flood gaps and overwhelm offensive linemen – en route to a stable pass rush.
Prediction (My Record: 0 – 3): From my slant in a few position groups, people should know where I stand with this outcome. I feel the Browns will keep it close to the end, only to witness Phillip Rivers pulling out a victory – by the score of 24 – 14.