Lookin’ at the Next One – Browns vs. Bengals – Game #12 Preview
This game looks ugly on paper and will probably be even worse on the field. The Browns are an absolute disaster, while their counterparts sit comfortably in first place in the AFC North. I don’t anticipate a competitive contest – at least in the second half of this matchup. However, let’s look at a few of the guys who will take the field for the orange and brown.
Quarterback – Now that Josh McCown will not be playing for the rest of the season, the Browns have two choices at quarterback (in this contest). I am done with the Johnny Manziel experiment, so I would prefer to see if giving Austin Davis a shot to remain with this team going forward. My expectations are low, but the veteran signal caller looked somewhat poised when pressed into action. Hopefully he can find the end zone once or twice on Sunday, with zero turnovers.
Running Back – I’m also over this team’s running game; the Browns should only use Duke Johnson as a receiver (either in the slot or out of the backfield). Other than that, the rookie and Isaiah Crowell cannot get more than three yards at a time when rushing the football. Granted, the line has been putrid – but it appears that Crowell cannot find any possible cut back lanes (which some of the better backs can do). Expect to see a low total of rushing yards for the Browns.
Wide Receiver – Can Brian Hartline build upon his success of last week? The veteran was solid when teaming up with Josh McCown; so it will be interesting to see how he performs with a different guy under center. Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel have both missed time due to concussions, however there is a chance we can finally see them back on the field. Catching and running with the ball would be a nice change this week for anyone not named Travis Benjamin; maybe Terrelle Pryor can even do it.
Tight End – I expect a bit of a drop-off in production from Gary Barnidge. Like Hartline, the veteran seems to work best with McCown – so the switch in signal callers will more than likely hurt the tight end’s output. One touchdown or several big catches would suffice, but I do not believe that will occur in this game. I don’t expect rookie E.J. Bibbs to get any opportunities at tight end either.
Offensive Line – It appears that the professional game is too big for Cameron Erving, at least at this moment. While filling in for Joel Bitonio, the rookie has been driven back on a consistent basis – leading to sacks and negative gains by rushers. Perhaps he is out of place at left guard, but winning at the point of attack is critical in the NFL. The Bengals’ defensive line will likely feast up the middle and on Mitchell Schwartz’s side all game long.
Defensive Line – I would be floored if the Browns can somewhat limit Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard in this contest. Jon Gruden pointed out how out of position the defensive front was on national television and the ease at which opponents can pick up yards. Danny Shelton has been a part of the problem and not the solution up to this point. I believe he can improve, but it’s looking like it will take time. I would like to believe the same can be said for Xavier Cooper.
Linebacker – This is easily one of the most maddening parts of the Browns’ roster. Veteran linebackers are out of place and routinely miss tackles. Barkevious Mingo is invisible and will likely be on another team’s roster in 2016. The only reliable member appears to be Paul Kruger, and he is only productive in spurts. Andy Dalton will likely find his backs and receivers down the seam and via crossing patterns – and should exploit the Browns in coverage.
Secondary – Each of the guys in the secondary has been beaten badly in coverage this year. Whether it has been Tramon Williams, Charles Gaines, or Pierre Desir (to name a few) – wide outs have gotten behind and torched the Browns’ cornerbacks. The safeties have not been excellent either, outside of a few fine tackles by Ibraheim Campbell and Donte Whitner (but those are few and far between). Expect a big game from Marvin Jones and A.J. Green against this secondary.
Special Teams: Well, it can’t be any worse than last week, right? The special teams single-handedly lost the contest for the Browns last Monday. I’d like to believe these units will be improved, but not nearly good enough to overcome the shortcomings by the offense and defense.
Coaching: I’m at the point where the defensive coaches should just throw guys out there and see what they’ve got. Those on the field are not performing for a multitude of reasons, and the staff has got to find a way to be better on this side of the ball. The offense knows their limitations and is doing its best; the defense is clearly not on the same page with each other.
Prediction (My Record: 7 – 4): I’m not going to go back and forth with this one; the Bengals come in and beat the Browns by the score of 30 – 13 – thus keeping the long losing streak alive for the orange and brown.