Sep 14, 2012

Week 2: Browns/Bengals Preview

I'm going to start trying to do both a "preview" and "not-so-rapid-reaction" blogs before and after Browns games from here on out. Here's my preview of the Browns' week 2 matchup with the Bengals:

  • Passing Game
    • Andy Dalton fits Jay Gruden's offense to a "T." He checks it down well, does a great job showing touch on those screen passes that pissed me off both times we played Cincy last year, and he even has an arm capable of winging it downfield to....
    • A.J. Green is a beast. He's great. I hate him. He single-handedly beat the Browns twice last year on the defensive breakdown in Week 1 and with his massive catch-and-run at the end of the game the second time the Browns and Bengals met up. He honestly does remind me of a young Randy Moss, from his speed to his vert to the fact that he looks like he's 120 lbs. and gonna get split in half every hit. I'll be honest and admit that I'm terrified about the thought of Green matching up against Sheldon Brown this week. This is the week that Joe Haden is going to be missed the most, and it's because A.J. Green gives the Browns a hard enough time with Haden on the field.
    • The Bengals gave up 4.0 sacks to Baltimore on Monday night, and judging how many times Dalton got rid of the ball and still go hit, the Browns should be in a relatively favorable position, especially considering the injuries that have decimated Cincinnati's interior line.
  • Running Game
    • BenJarvus Green-Ellis did much better than I envisioned he would last week against an always stingy Ravens defense. He isn't flashy but he runs with a very physical style and got better as the night wore on. The offensive line played reasonably well being able to open up those lanes for Green-Ellis.
  • Passing Defense
    • The Browns defense as a whole played well last week against the Eagles with the exception of the last few minutes of both the first and second half. But there's no Joe Haden in this matchup, boys and girls. Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson will be holding down the fort for the next four weeks, with Buster Skrine playing nickel. That scares me. It's not that I think that Brown, Patterson, and Skrine are bad, but it's just that fact that A.J. Green is an animal.
    • I'm interested to see the defensive line play for the first time (I caught most of the Week 1 game on the radio in the car) on Sunday. If Sheard plays like he showed he could all of last year and Rubin/Hughes/Winn step up like they did last week (or so I read) it could spell big things for the Browns defense, taking away the time needed for Green to get deep downfield against the secondary.
  • Run Defense
    • The Browns run defense gave up too many rushing yards last week. Again. It seems like it's been a constant thing for the Browns ever since they got back in '99. Luckily, Andy Reid kept letting Mike Vick drop back over and over, negating that facet of the game. Cincy will not do that as much. They brought in The Law Firm for a reason and use his physical style to set up Andy Dalton's short passing game nicely. Here's to hoping the Browns are able to shut it down and these young linebackers play as well against the run this week as they did against the pass last week.
  • Passing Game
    • We all know how much of a disaster that last week's passing game was, and it started with Brandon Weeden. I'm probably naive, but I think Weeden shapes up a little bit this week. If he can get back on target with his throws and learn to utilize the size of Flash Gordon and the speed of Travis Benjamin I think the Browns can do enough to actually pull this game out.
    • The offensive line needs to do a better job of protecting Weeden as well. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins are no scrubs when it comes to rushing the passer. Mitchell Schwartz had a tough time containing Jason Babin last week, and Brandon Weeden was pressured 11 times, up near the top of list for most in the league last week. The offensive line will have their hands full this week, but I think they fare a lot better than they did last week given the fact that Philly's front 4 is one of the best in the league.  
  • Running Game
    • The offensive line was first and foremost underwhelming in the running game last week. Schwartz and the offensive line as a whole MUST do a better job of opening up running lanes for Trent on Sunday. People kept wondering why Richardson didn't try to bust to the outside as much last week, but the Eagles "Wide-9" defense makes that tough. I could see the tackles having a better shot of sealing off the edge for T-Rich this week.
    • I covered this in my "not-so-rapid reaction" the other day, but T-Rich was rusty on Sunday. Really rusty. I know it, you know it, he knows it. He hadn't played in a game since the National Championship in January. This week Richardson has a chance to show off his potential a little bit more against a tough, but not as tough as Philly, defense. 
  • Pass Defense
    • The Bengals secondary is littered with former first round picks in PacMan Jones, Leon Hall, Reggie Nelson, Nate Clements, Dre' Kirkpatrick, Taylor Mays and Terrance Newman. But that doesn't mean that they always play like first rounders. Newman and Clements are old as hell, and PacMan Jones isn't the player he was drafted to be. Nelson has revived his career in Cincy, and has done a pretty good job solidifying the safety spot. Leon Hall is a shutdown corner, but the Browns don't really have to worry about him because it's not like they have a stud wideout they're going consistently force the ball to, ala an A.J. Green.
    • Cincy's defensive line does a good job of getting to the passer. The matchups to watch here are Carlos Dunlap vs. Mitchell Schwartz (if Dunlap is lined up on the right side) and Geno Atkins vs. either Jason Pinkston or Shawn Lauvao. To be completely honest, I'm not very confident in either of those matchups. 
  • Run Defense
    • Making headlines all week was Rey Maualuga's comment that T-Rich was nothing special last week. I love him giving Richardson bulletin board material, but I can't help but agree with what Maualuga said. Richardson needs to step up and take it straight to Maualuga and take advantage of a linebacking corp that just lost Thomas Howard for the season. I like his odds this week if he can get warmed up.
    • I'm not going to harp on the concerns I have about Dunlap and Atkins this week, but I'll add one more piece that has more to do with the run defense. Domata Peko is a force on the interior and hopefully one of the most underrated centers in the league, Alex Mack, can do a good job of keeping him under wraps on those interior running plays

Verdict: I actually like the Browns in this game if the offense can get even a little bit going. If Patterson and Hagg can contain AJ Green deep, I think the Browns defense keeps the game close and puts the offense in a position to steal one, and Trent Rich makes sure it happens

BROWNS: 20-13

Sep 10, 2012

Week One Not-So-Rapid-Reaction

So here's my week one analysis. FUCK. I should have known it was coming after being a Browns fan all my life. I should have seen it coming. I should have known it was too good to be true. But. But. BUT...we aren't as bad off as people say. Driving home listening to 850 after the game was possibly the most infuriating thing in my life. I'll go through the arguments and claims by callers and Greg "I-Have-No-Business-Hosting-A-Football-Radio-Show" Brenda. Here are my week one thoughts:

    • I was secretly terrified of a defense without Phil Taylor and Chris Gocong. I was worried about an atrocious run defense losing a massive (literally) piece in the front four. And while I'm not a huge Gocong fan he's usually solid. With that in mind, the defense stepped up and played out of their mind. From what I heard (I was listening in the car), Rubin was blasting Vick, along with everyone else in the front seven and Boss Ward. LJ Fort and Chris Robertson played above and beyond expectations of undrafted rookies. And let's be honest, Joe Hade, D'Qwell, and Boss Ward are studs. If the youngsters in the linebacking core keep developing and the secondary can survive without Haden for the next month, look the fuck out for this defense.
    • Keep this in mind as you play Monday Morning QB from ass on the couch: the Eagles are a good damn team. They have a great defense. They have two of the best corners in the NFL. They have one of, if not the best d-line in the NFL. Keep this in mind.
    • So on Brenda's post-game show yesterday, he went so far as to say Weeden played so bad he should go back to baseball. No really, he said it. He said he didn't look like a 28 year old, he looked like an 18 year old. People called in and said they couldn't believe Colt didn't come into the game. Let me ask you this, all you Weeden crucifiers out there: what did you expect? Honestly. I'm not saying I expected Weeden to shit the bed like he did. And I'm not defending his awful play in the least. But to be shocked he struggled in his first NFL start against two of the best corners in the league after only playing 5 preseason quarters is ridiculous. Unbelievable. He should quit football??? And the argument that he's 28 so he should play like it is the most blind logic I've ever heard. So I should be able to grab the oldest players in college football and they should be able to perform better than the younger ones? Really? Do people with this argument think before they speak? Give Weeden a chance. The guy's played one game. ONE GAME. And I'm not going to even talk about the people saying Colt should have been playing. They must not have seen any football last season. 
    • As far as Trent Richardson, who hasn't been ridiculed as much as Weeden, just keep in mind that yesterday was his first game since the National Championship. Think about that. Nine months since he saw in-game action on a football field. The kid was rusty, it was evident, but don't pretend you didn't get a lil' chub like I did when you saw him run Kurt Coleman the hell over
    • With no expectations for yesterday's game, Browns fans should be ecstatic at yesterday's showing. Have a little patience with this incredibly young group and have a little faith that one of the league's most experienced coaching staffs (do people realize they have four [former] head coaches on the staff?) can coach this young offense up (Weeden, Richardson, Schwartz, Gordon, Benjamin, Little, Pinkston...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 first or second year players with big offensive roles). 
I'll leave you with two thoughts to help you sleep tonight. 

Sep 8, 2012

A Word on the Passing of Art Modell

I'm not gonna beat a damn dead horse about Art Modell dying. Everything to be said has been said by the local guys at the PD, on 850, and on 1100. Hell, it's been covered by all the national outlets like ESPN and SI. But I'll say just a bit about Modell. I never celebrate an individual's death (except for Osama and all those other sons of bitches we slay over there in the Middle East--but that's the Marine in me) but there's a difference in being happy for someone dies and feeling little or no sympathy or emotion for someone's death. Modell falls into that category for me. By all accounts he was a great guy, always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. But what he did to Cleveland was heartbreaking. I've read about how many people have forgotten and moved on from The Move but not me. I wasn't even 6 years old when The Move happened and I had no idea what it meant then. Hell, I barely even remember it. All I remember about The Move was the countdown clock in Tower City before the Browns came back. When it all comes down to it though, there is more than one person to blame for The Move. Al Lerner was Modell's right hand man during the whole process, for example. But when the dust settled, it was Modell's call to up and move the team to Baltimore. It's part of his legacy in the NFL. And while I don't think we should do backflips over his death, I also don't think we should act like the assholes in Baltimore either (see below). I'll finish with this: rest in piece, Art. You were an innovative owner and the NFL is forever marked by those innovations, but you're still a son of a bitch.

PS: I'm glad to hear that the Browns aren't going to recognize Modell's death tomorrow, even if it is only because of the family's wishes. There is just too fine of a line to try to tightrope with an issue like this, and it opens up a massive opportunity for a few assholes to make Cleveland look like shit (again, see below for Baltimore's example).