Browns vs. Patriots – A Look at Game #5
This is the game I truly do not look forward to watch; the Browns have played the Patriots tough the last two times they squared off, but this time is different. Tom Brady is coming off a suspension and will take his frustration out on our beloved Cleveland Browns. At least there will a playoff baseball game on later that day – where Cleveland has a great shot to beat a Massachusetts team. Let’s analyze:
Quarterback: Did Cody Kessler make a rookie mistake last week? Yes, but overall I would say that he improved from his first start the week prior. The questions still exist about his arm strength, but I am not ready to make a declarative statement as “he doesn’t have the physical traits to make it in the NFL”. I look for him to spread the ball around early, so Terrelle Pryor can find his spots later in the game (by avoiding double coverage). A turnover-free game by Kessler would be exceptional, even if the team is defeated soundly.
Running Back: The Browns have one of the best stable of running backs in the league. Isaiah Crowell seems to earn yards in chunks, while Duke Johnson is catching and running (despite getting worked over by poor officiating). One would imagine that they would continue to utilize this part of the team for two reasons – they are successful at it and puts Kessler in more manageable spots against the opposing defense. I predict a touchdown or two from this group on Sunday.
Wide Receiver: This is a contest where I would really like to see Ricado Louis step up and display his speed. The Browns need another option while Corey Coleman is sidelined – and Louis has been adequate (but could improve). I understand that is a tall order, but I trust coach Jackson and his staff can assist with this task. Pryor will be a marked man but still expect him to haul in several grabs. Meanwhile, Andrew Hawkins has been a chain mover and a first down option. I anticipate more of the same this week.
Tight End: The injuries to Seth DeValve and Randall Telfair have all but depleted any depth behind Gary Barnidge. Nonetheless, the veteran has produced in games – albeit at a lesser level than he did in 2015. That said, he should garner four or five grabs for a modest fifty yards in this matchup. A touchdown for Barnidge would be excellent, but should not be counted on.
Offensive Line: Speaking of injuries, the Browns will more than likely return to John Greco at center in this game. I hope Alvin
Bailey has a chip on his shoulder, as the veteran was held out of last game due to his arrest. As a whole, the offensive line played much better last week than the game before that. However, the lineup used in Miami will be on display against the Patriots. I have a bit of more faith in them against this defensive front – but Kessler needs to be smart when dropping back to pass.
Defensive Line: I have been rather impressed by the guys up front for the Cleveland Browns’ defense, as they have been much better against the run. However, they could be the beginning of the rush defense that has underwhelmed at this point. The Browns will have their hands full with LeGarrette Blount running the football. I would venture to say that this will be a good measuring stick for Danny Shelton and Stephen Paea to see if they continue to progress or if they have been taking advantage of lesser offensive units.
Outside Linebacker: It was interesting to see the Browns part ways with Armonty Bryant, who recently came off his four-game suspension. This was due to the fact that pass rusher Nate Orchard was put on IR a few days earlier. It stands to reason that this coaching staff likes what they see from Joe Schobert, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Corey Lemonier at outside linebacker. Yes, those guys are young but are still relentless each and every play. Tom Brady knows what he is doing under center, so it would be unwise to project one of the Browns’ edge rushers finish the game with a forced turnover.
Inside Linebacker: Chris Kirksey and DeMario Davis have both done a respectable job on the field. However, tight end Jordan Reed made them look foolish in pass coverage – as he hauled in two early touchdowns last game. The Patriots have a pretty good tight end themselves, and I am fearful he will have a gigantic day against the orange and brown. It’s hope at this point, but maybe Kirksey or Davis can make a huge play or two.
Safety: There is a chance that Ibraheim Campbell returns for this contest, but he is not the weak spot in the safety positions. The Browns either need to get better coverage from Jordan Poyer or should think about getting someone who can play “center field” at a higher level. I would imagine that the Patriots will expose this continually – as it should be apparent on film.
Cornerback: Outside of a handful of plays, Joe Haden is not playing well in 2016. Meanwhile, the Browns are using Briean Boddy-Calhoun (an undrafted rookie signed last month) is seeing more playing time, following the injury to Tramon Williams. I give the cornerbacks little chance versus the passing attack from New England – but look forward to being surprised.
Special Teams: For the first time in weeks, the Browns’ special teams were not the reason why they lost last game. I expect them not to revert to their erroneous ways and to hang in there in this category. Not surrendering a long return and being successful in field goal attempts is a good start for this unit.
Coaching: I continue to believe in this coaching staff, despite the lack of talent on the field. The Browns will not put themselves into positions to fail; hopefully the young players can execute. It will be intriguing to see what type of game plan is formulated by Hue Jackson.
Prediction (My Record: 4 – 0): The Browns will try their best in front of the home crowd, but the Patriots will beat them soundly. The visitors will come away with a 38 – 17 victory and tally a fifth defeat for the orange and brown.