Previewing the Browns @ Bengals – Game #9
The Browns now head to the second half of their schedule, and limp (somewhat literally) into their next game with two wins and six losses. The ending of the most previous game was riddled with injuries and mistakes – and many, me included, would rather forget about the outcome. Now they head south to Cincinnati to play the undefeated Bengals (that hurts typing that). I anticipate more of the same for the orange and brown – but let’s still break it down.
Quarterback – Josh McCown is bruised and battered, but still played all the way into the fourth quarter of last week’s game. He is hoping to start, but I would bet that he would not finish the game. That leads the way for Johnny Manziel to see some playing time (unless Pettine goes with Austin Davis). Hopefully his debacle against the Bengals in 2014 will fuel him to a successful outing this year – it’s unlikely but there’s always a chance. Realistically I expect more of the same from the Browns’ signal caller; a touchdown or two and a turnover or two.
Running Back – The veteran who everyone expected to steal the starting job faltered against the Cardinals. Do the Browns go back to Robert Turbin? Or will Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson prove to be the guys who can shoulder the load. The frustration at the lack of a running attack has hit a new high, and I do not see this part of the team getting fixed any time soon. Perhaps we should hope for those dump-offs to Duke Johnson and the long scampers thereafter.
Wide Receiver – Will Brian Hartline continue to be more involved in contests going forward? Last week was a breakout performance by the veteran, but he still committed a few key drops. I would hope that whoever is under center could get the ball to the wide out. Travis Benjamin’s play has cooled greatly over the past few weeks – however that does not mean the team should avoid the speedster. Perhaps he can be the reason why the offense excels on Thursday night. I am not going to mention (by name) the high priced free agent who cannot record receptions for this team.
Tight End – Still no E.J. Bibbs for the Cleveland Browns. Gary Barnidge went back to his productive ways (he even threw in a nice block in pass protection) last week, and I expect that to continue in Cincinnati. Jim Dray is a solid tight end, but I want to see what the rookie can do on the field. I wonder what will it take, clearly more than a Rob Housler injury, for the former Iowa State product to get into an NFL contest. Who knows, maybe he can even make some plays for this offense.
Offensive Line – More of the same for the guys upfront in the run blocking; that is not meant to be a compliment. The line has not made holes for any back this year. It took a gimmick for Isiah Crowell to get more than one yard at a time (until the Cardinals prepared for the wildcat play). It would be unreasonable for someone to think that this group can get their act together, but I still think they should keep Joe Thomas and Alex Mack around for the future. Cameron Erving starting at right guard could be the shakeup that makes this group what many were expecting.
Defensive Line – The positive from last week’s game is that the team did not surrender their usual 150 yards on the ground. However, facing Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard might be a tough task and it’s likely that the Bengals will employ their running attack throughout the contest. Armonty and Desmond Bryant each made a few nice plays last Sunday – that type of performance will be required once again to have a shot at knocking off their undefeated rival.
Linebacker – It would look as the edge pass rushers on this team are far from excelling at their jobs. Quarterbacks have had ample time to pick apart this team and have been doing a fine job at it. Maybe the Browns should switch the guys on the outside with the duo on the inside to see if Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby can get sacks off the corner (only slightly kidding). The defense cannot keep doing what they have been doing and expect to see a respectable pass rush.
Secondary – Several injuries are depleting this part of the roster and allowing quarterbacks to embarrass the Browns’ corners and safeties. Ibraheim Campbell, Johnson Bademosi, and Pierre Desir are just a few of the guys who have come in and played following injuries to starters. Being reserves and special teamers, they are playing at the level that one would expect. Why shouldn’t the coaches try Justin Gilbert at this point? I know he could be worse that what is out there – but it can’t be that much worse.
Special Teams: Like most games in the NFL, this part of the game will be rather even and minimal to the outcome of the contest. There might be one vital play in this contest – via a kick or a punt return, etc., but that appears to be unlikely in this matchup.
Coaching: I am not sure what the coaches can formulate to win this meeting. At least the Bengals are coming off of a tense and physical game in Pittsburgh, and hopefully they are drained. The Browns’ staff must put the players in the best spots to succeed (including not trotting out injured signal callers). Other than that, they just need to play smart football.
Prediction (My Record: 4-4): This one is going to sting a bit for Browns’ fans, as they will falter once again this week to the tune of 31 -13. Everyone will be calling for coaches, the general manager, and players to evacuate this franchise immediately – oh the joy of being a Browns fan!