Browns @ Bengals – Game #7 Preview
The frustration continues as the Browns head south to face the Bengals in Cincinnati. For the first time in three seasons, the two will not be playing in Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday night – which is a bit of relief for the orange and brown. I feel a little bit more confident in this game than I did before the season started, but is that enough to predict a win? Here’s a breakdown of the matchup.
Quarterback: I look for more progression from rookie quarterback Cody Kessler in this contest. He has been inconsistent at times in contests, but still has been making plays throughout. Being outmanned basically everywhere makes it hard for the signal caller, but I give him a ton of credit. I figure he should keep them in this contest with a touchdown or two – hopefully he can limit his mistakes against a tremendous defensive front.
Running Back: I really do not know what to expect from this position group, as they have been bottled up during the past two contests. The moving parts (and subsequent poor play) by the five upfront has made running the football rather difficult for both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. More of the same should occur this Sunday – as the Browns will be lucky to eclipse seventy-five yards on the ground. Maybe some late heroics might help this position group garner some respectable statistics.
Wide Receiver: I cannot wait to see Corey Coleman return to this lineup, as the receiving corps is missing “something”. Their M.O. has been Terrelle Pryor having an extremely productive first half, then the defense adjusting, followed by the Browns being shut down in the passing game in the second half. Ricardo Louis continues to progress as an threat, but his drops are glaring and do not inspire confidence the way Coleman could. I do not have high hopes for this group, but a touchdown should still be projected.
Tight End: It would appear that Connor Hamlett’s breakout game a few weeks ago did not convert over into last contest (which is no surprise). Gary Barnidge continues to be the only viable option at this position, but even his production has been down from a year ago – also expected. Perhaps he wins on a coverage mismatch and is able to score for the orange and brown in this game. The offense could sorely use it.
Offensive Line: Cody Kessler’s health might be of concern in this contest – the guys upfront have not been holding their end of the bargain. I would not be opposed to moving John Greco back to center and inserting either Spencer Drango or Shon Coleman at right guard to see if that is a better group that one with Cameron Erving at center. I understand it’s a developmental year; thus the Browns ought to find out which lineup works best (for the future). Not getting their signal caller killed would be welcomed as well.
Defensive Line: What I am seeing from Danny Shelton (and to a lesser extent, Jamie Meder and Stephen Paea) really gives me hope for the future of this defensive line. They are coming off a contest where they stonewalled one of the best rushing teams in the league. Jeremy Hill is a feisty back however, and he is eager to embarrass his AFC North foes (as he did in 2014). I predict a step back for the Browns’ defensive front, but they should not get gashed by Paul Brown’s second professional football club.
Outside Linebacker: Outside from one sack from Emmanuel Ogbah, the depleted position has not been productive in any way this season. Joe Schobert dropped an early interception last contest; everything (from the rookie) that followed that was rather mediocre. Andy Dalton is a bit more mobile that many give him credit for – thus he should evade the pass rush with ease. Who knows, maybe these guys will generate a coverage sack on Sunday.
Inside Linebacker: Despite getting moderate play each contest, Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis cannot break through and finish a game-changing play. Historically, this position group has (occasionally) been able to intercept Dalton. I would like to see this occur once again, but that is a tall order for this duo. Preventing any long gains on the ground must be a priority – if the
Browns want to have a chance at victory.
Safety: Tracy Howard is in line to get the start in this contest at free safety. The undrafted rookie has not been great by any stretch, but can he be any worse than any other safety for the Browns? At least Tyler Eifert will not be available for this contest; otherwise the tight end would make the Browns’ defenders pay. My expectations are extremely low and seeing A.J. Green and other wide outs getting behind safeties will (more than likely) be on display.
Cornerback: Speaking of Green, he should be putting up big numbers in the contest – regardless of Joe Haden’s availability. The veteran has missed multiple games due to his groin injury and was less than effective when being out on the field. More of the same should be predicted, which means Dalton will find open targets early and often in this matchup.
Special Teams: The blunders, i.e. turnovers, were not apparent last meeting, but the Browns were penalized an exorbitant number of times. This led to awful field position and the team not being able to dig them out of a tough spot. I hope they can improve upon this part of their team but it will likely take time, with all of the youngsters on the roster.
Coaching: So Marvin Lewis says he misses Hue Jackson very much. I hope that is motivation for Jackson to prove to Mike Brown that being “a head coach in waiting” was not good enough and that he can make his former franchise pay. I still support Jackson and his play calling decisions; hopefully they can be the difference.
Prediction (My Record: 6 – 0): I got a blemish-free record, why should I jeopardize that? The Browns play hard and lose once again by the score of 32 – 20.