The Browns are Taking their Talents…
On the road again, the Cleveland Browns head south to face another defeated franchise in the Miami Dolphins. It will be a hot one, and there might not be a ton of great football to be played – but hopefully our annual road trip (for yours truly) will generate a Browns’ win. There have been injuries to both teams already – who will be the guys to step up?
Quarterback: Another game and another quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Cody Kessler gets his trial by fire and has to look across at Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, and Ndamukong Suh – not an enviable position. The signal caller threw a touchdown on his first pass of the preseason, and then everything else has gone downhill since. I anticipate Hue Jackson will pare down the playbook and limit the number of tosses (especially deep) in this contest. Assuming he attempts quick screens and outs, I can envision a decent passing percentage. However, I do not see any touchdowns or big plays by the quarterback.
Running Back: One would imagine that both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson would receive ample opportunities against the Dolphins’ defense. Their game plan will more than likely feature “stacking the box” to try and take away the Browns’ running attack. With two capable rushers at the helm, the Browns can opt for runs or pass attempts to either guy. It will come down to scheming and how Jackson can outfox Adam Gase’s defense. I expect Duke Johnson to get an expanded role, but Crowell will obviously not have another tremendous output.
Wide Receivers: In following the theme of short, quick passes – the two beneficiaries of this should be Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins. Hopefully they can get a larger guy (i.e. Terrelle Pryor or Gary Barnidge) on the edge that could block down field for a larger gain. Many are concerned about the stunting of the growth of Coleman (as he is now paired with a rookie). This is hard to argue against; he and all wide outs will underperform until a veteran returns under center.
Tight End: A tight end is predominantly utilized as a safety valve for green signal callers. Gary Barnidge should more than help this offense – provided Kessler dials up his target and complete passes. He made some key catches last week at home but I have no idea as to how he will fare in this contest. The injury to Randall Telfair might allow another guy (Seth DeValve) to come in and play. However, with all of their quarterbacks getting hurt, the coaching staff might employ the tight end as more of a blocker for maximum protection.
Offensive Line: For all the complainers about Cameron Erving and his porous play – they will get their wish (for a while, at least), as the second year pro will be out of action. I am confident in John Greco as his replacement but am unsure of Alvin Bailey at right guard. One thing that Kessler can do to help himself – is to get the football out of his hand as quickly as possible. The guys upfront have not been consistent blocking, so not leaning on them to propel this unit might not be a wise idea.
Defensive Line: The broken hand suffered by Carl Nassib really hurts the defensive line – the rookie was playing well which helped a few of his teammates. In his absence, Xavier Cooper must step up and be a force on the edge. He has been mediocre so far in 2016 – but could continue to improve in only his second season. Speaking of which, Danny Shelton proved that he can actually be disruptive in the middle of the line. I hope he can not only force action elsewhere, but move the point of attack behind the line of scrimmage. The status of runner Arian Foster is not set in stone, so a hobbled runner or a backup should help the Browns’ run defense.
Outside Linebacker: Emmanuel Ogbah was one of the pass rushers who was aided by Nassib’s early performances. Without his services, the rookie linebacker will have to find another way to be a force on the outside. Meanwhile, Joe Schobert took a step back last game and was hardly visible during the contest. With Nate Orchard seeing regular playing time behind him, there’s a chance that he could surpass the rookie as the starter. Regardless of who is out there, they must be fast on the edge and force everything to the middle of the field.
Inside Linebacker: (Not surprisingly) the pair of veterans in the middle are doing a great job of showing the way for the younger guys. Demario Davis and Chris Kirksey have not been brilliant, but stout enough against both the run and pass where they are warranting their playing time. I would like to see them either notch a few sacks on Tannehill or even secure a huge interception. A big play like that might be the difference in this contest.
Cornerbacks: Outside of the rejuvenated Joe Haden, I am very fearful of Jamar Taylor and Tramon Williams going against Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, or Kenny Stills. I hope that Taylor’s return to Miami will lead him to play inspired football and make some key plays – but that is admittedly wishful thinking. Tannehill will likely hit at least two targets in the end zone in this contest and propel the offense to a solid afternoon.
Safeties: Derrick Kindred is getting “there” and Jordan Poyer is trying to get “there”. The rookie has been awful active in games and around the ball on multiple occasions. I could see him jarring a football loose in this contest and turning the tide to Kessler and company. Meanwhile, Poyer nearly had an interception last meeting. He improved from week one, but must be better in his coverage than just a play or two each contest.
Special Teams: Here is where the Browns really need to see tremendous improvement going forward. They cannot get field goals (or extra points) blocked anymore, nor can they surrender longer returns. In a conservative offensive game plan, will the Browns attempt a fourth and short situation or go for a longer field goal attempt? Let’s hope coach Jackson makes the right call on Sunday.
Coaching: As previously referenced, there will be a vanilla offense run by this group to move the football while not getting their third quarterback hurt in as many weeks. I do not have high hopes for this unit, but perhaps the staff can silence the doubters. The defense will be relied upon more than usual – so more aggressive play calls could be seen.
Prediction (My Record: 2 – 0): I don’t know what to think about this team with all the injuries and young guys, so I’ll keep the
expectations at a minimum. The Dolphins and Browns will compete in an ugly contest, with the home team coming out ahead by the score of 20 – 6.