Previewing Game #11 – Ravens @ Browns
Well it’s time for the Cleveland Browns to finally hit the field on Monday night. They are going to be on national television for the second (and final) time in 2015, hopefully the team can garner a victory here. Tickets to this event were aplenty, and demand has not been high to watch the two struggling AFC North franchises. Let’s take a look at what is in store.
Quarterback – I will be intrigued to see how Josh McCown performs after getting back his starting role. He is a tremendous leader and teammate – and someone that young quarterbacks should look up to. I expect once again for the signal caller to have some success in this contest, but not as much as he did earlier this year in Baltimore.
Running Back – Seriously, the Browns have not had a rusher go for over seventy-five yards all season long? This is flat out awful and embarrassing, and the Browns need to curb this streak. I would actually like to see Duke Johnson get a majority of touches, including carries between the tackles. He has been avoided in almost every contest after halftime (providing ample frustration to running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery); why not buck this on Monday night?
Wide Receiver – At this point, Travis Benjamin appears to be the only wide out that will remain with this team in 2016 (and that’s not even set in stone). The lack of size that Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel possess is glaring, and each has suffered injuries in the past few weeks during crossing routes. I had high hopes for Brian Hartline coming into the campaign, however the veteran has only been productive in spurts. Frankly, this part of the team has its work cut out for them and I do not see tremendous output by the receivers.
Tight End – Can E.J. Bibbs please get involved in this week’s game plan? I have been clamoring for the undrafted rookie all season long, and with the team going in the tank they should use this time to see whether Bibbs can remain on the roster next season. Gary Barnidge should still be the focus of several passing attempts, but perhaps coverage could be shifted away from the dynamic tight end, as there is another guy on the field who can catch and run.
Offensive Line – I really do not know what to make of the guys upfront, and more importantly how to fix their issues. The Browns cannot afford to rely strictly on their passing attack in order to gain yards and points. I anticipate that this part of the Browns will struggle yet again – causing further frustration by the coaching staff and fans alike.
Defensive Line – Speaking of improvement, it would be fantastic if the Browns can take what they did in their last contest and carry it over this game (and for the rest of the campaign). Limiting opposing rushers to fewer than one hundred yards is crucial, and accomplishing this feat is a mindset that is not with the Browns’ defensive line. I believe they are working towards this, but the youngsters need to step up and improve where the veterans have not been able to excel.
Linebacker – At this point, the Browns should just line two guys up at outside linebacker and have a competition to see who can get to the quarterback. For one reason or another, the team has not had a reliable edge rusher and it has led to several exceptional passing totals by opposing signal callers. Nate Orchard is a rookie I hope they give many shots at rushing the quarterback. There’s not a ton that can change for the inside linebackers – the trio remains to be adequate on the field.
Secondary – It would be a good thing if Joe Haden returns from his second concussion and participates in this contest. Pierre Desir and Charles Gaines have struggled in coverage, but the insertion of Haden into the lineup should relieve this duo of difficult responsibilities. K’Waun Williams has been praised by this coaching staff for his consistency and reliability. Maybe he could surge ahead of Tramon Williams for playing time? I hope Ibraheim Campbell teams up with Tashaun Gipson at the safety spots; this might be the new tandem next year, so continuity should begin now.
Special Teams: It was a game-winning field goal that was the clincher for the Browns during the last meeting. I could see Travis Coons nailing a few kicks, but they might not seal a victory. Andy Lee must get back to the basics and drill long punts in this game; he is expected to be very active in this game.
Coaching: I don’t know what to say for the coaches on either side of the ball. John DeFilippo must utilize his rushing attack early and often; I know this is obvious but it still needs to happen. Defensively, my expectations are very low but maybe embarrassing and humiliating the personnel (in private) can fire up the Browns to play inspired football.
Prediction (My Record: 6 – 4): I expect the Ravens to get out to an early lead and unlike the last meeting; the Browns will not be able to come back. The Ravens will pull out a 27 – 16 win over the Browns, leading the way to more disappointment along the shores of Lake Erie.