Previewing Game #10 – Browns @ Steelers
It’s a rivalry renewed on Sunday as the Browns have another tough road contest within the AFC North. Heinz Field has been cruel to the Browns, and this week should present all sorts of problems for the orange and brown. Let’s take an inside look at a few of the positions for the visiting squad.
Quarterback – The reins must be handed over to Johnny Manziel at this point. Josh McCown has played relatively well, but the team is not winning with him. The rest of the schedule is an evaluation period for the second year pro. I believe he can continue to progress and get better . Will it be enough for the coaching staff and front office to move forward with the signal caller? I would like to find out after eight more starts from Manziel this season. Finding the end zone multiple times should be his goal in Pittsburgh.
Running Back – Can the coaching staff give an ample amount of carries to Isaiah Crowell? He had nine carries in the first half last week and only one after halftime – he needs to have at least twenty carries to be effective. Duke Johnson should get at least a handful of carries and several receptions as well. He has shown an ability to make plays and this offense sorely needs this consistency. If the team can utilize this duo to their capabilities, then there’s a shot the Browns will be in this contest.
Wide Receiver – Will the Browns use Dwayne Bowe more as coach Pettine has mentioned? I’d like to see him on some shorter routes – as I have confidence he can haul in passes. I hope Andrew Hawkins can pass the concussion protocol, as Taylor Gabriel was less than spectacular last contest. Travis Benjamin has been a favorite target for Manziel; the coaching staff would be wise to include him regularly in the passing game. I want to see at least one touchdown from this group on Sunday.
Tight End – This should be the week where E.J. Bibbs is finally included in the team’s game plan. Gary Barnidge should come down with his usual output total and hopefully at least one touchdown. However, Bibbs could be flexed out wide and create additional matchup problems for the defense. Frankly, teams do not have any game film on him (outside of a few preseason games) – so let the rookie confuse and expose the opponent.
Offensive Line – I felt the line finally showed some signs of improvement last week; the coaches must determine whether this can continue. The Browns should stick with the run, even if they are not having success initially. In the passing game, Manziel had some time to think in the pocket – this younger signal caller needs all the help during drop backs and the guys upfront should certainly help with this.
Defensive Line – Well, there’s no Le’Veon Bell to game plan against, as the opposing rusher is out for the season with an injury. Deangelo Williams has somewhat resurrected his career, but he has nowhere near the ability of Bell. I anticipate that he will be hitting holes primarily between the tackles. Therefore John Hughes, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper should stay firm on the edge and funnel action towards the middle. It will be a tough test for Danny Shelton – but it would be nice if he can have his breakout game.
Linebacker – On the outside, I want to see Nate Orchard continue to gobble up playing time alongside Paul Kruger. Barkevious Mingo has only displayed a moderate ability to cover and nothing else. Armonty Bryant could be inserted primarily as a rusher as well – as he has made some plays in that role thus far. On the inside, the trio has been solid but not great. I hope they can attack the line of scrimmage and limit rushing yardage for the black and yellow.
Secondary – Joe Haden needs to be healthy for this contest. The veteran’s absence has caused opposing signal callers to be playing pitch and catch against the Browns’ secondary. Justin Gilbert should see some time at cornerback as well; last contest he held his own when he was on the field. At the safety spot, Ibraheim Campbell showed physicality and was rather surprising last week. He should be stealing playing time from Donte Whitner. The bottom line for this group is to not get embarrassed by Antonio Brown.
Special Teams: Heinz Field is known for it’s poor field surface, but Travis Coons is still the best kicker on the field. A game winning kick for him would be nice but is not expected. Andy Lee must make sure that Antonio Brown does not get his hands on the ball (during punt returns) with room to run.
Coaching: I do not know what Jim O’Neil can do to improve his run defense (including clogging the middle of the field). They cannot allow Williams to have a big day, which will lead to a blowout. Offensively, the team must attack primarily with their running backs then find Barnidge and Benjamin on the second and third level.
Prediction (My Record: 5 -4): More of the same on Sunday; the Steelers prove to be too much and defeat the Browns at home by the score of 30 – 17. The 2015 season continues to worsen for the orange and brown.