Reunited, and it feels so good. K-Dubs, the Soldier returns from his run-in with the Wickliffe Police Department to add his take on the 2-2 Browns.
What did we learn about the team following the historic comeback against the Titans?
K-Dubs, the Soldier: Well, I learned that you can’t take your pants off in the parking lot of a Boston Market without catching some static, but let’s focus on what “we” learned. We learned that, at this point of the season, with every positive comes a counterbalancing negative. Hoyer’s comeback was as exciting as the first half was disappointing, on both sides of the ball. While we also learned that tales of Buster Skrine’s improvement are grossly exaggerated - as he made Charlie Whitehurst look like a Pro Bowler - we saw the promise of K’Waun Williams, a rookie cornerback that will be relied on more now that Joe Haden is hampered by an injured hip. And as good as the two-minute offense has been this year, the special-teams play is still terrible. Coach Pettine does not seem to have much faith in the leg of kicker Billy Cundiff, and Travis Benjamin’s fumbled punt would have effectively ended the game, if the referees had not negated Tennessee’s recovery on a questionable penalty. I predicted this team would finish 7-9, and I shouldn’t be surprised that they still struggle in certain facets of the game, but it is the wild inconsistencies that are just maddening. I guess that we learned that we have no choice but to hold on tight and embrace the craziness.
Big$: What did we learn? Basically that the Browns are 1 point better than a Charlie Whitehurst-led football team. The post-game dancing is all well and good, but it doesn’t erase the memory of the defense doing their best impression of a 70’s electronic football game. Seriously, was any member of our secondary in the right spot at any point? Watching millionaires wander haplessly around a field like a college dropout at a Phish show was agonizing. I can only imagine the shock Whitehurst felt when Whisenhunt trusted him to execute a fly route upon entering the game. I’d guess the shock doubled when it was executed as if a DB wasn’t on the field. If only we had committed a top 10 pick to bolster our CB corps this year (cough). I know a win is a win, but there are some serious concerns defensively and I think that will be the story moving forward.
Who would you like to see LeBron start in place of this week?
Big$: Considering the two first round draft picks have been non factors this season I would pick LBJ to replace Ray Farmer. I have no doubt The King is pulling the strings for the Cavs right now and an off-season that nets Love, Marion, Miller, and Ray Allen speaks for itself.
K-Dubs, the Soldier: While I would like to see the sure-handed LeBron back returning punts, I would love to see him lining up at cornerback instead of Buster Skrine this week. Haden is questionable this week, and even with him in the lineup in Week 1, Ben Roethlisberger set a career high for passing yards in one half. If Haden sits out this week, I am afraid that Big Ben and Antonio Brown will have a huge day. Watching LeBron lock down Brown would put my mind at ease.
Prediction for the week?
Big$: Even though the majority of my feelings on the Browns are cloaked in a thick layer of negativity, I have faith that the offense will have success against the Steelers D. Hoyer is finding his footing and Tate looks like he is fully capable of making use of the space the O line is providing him. The pressure is going to fall on the D line making Big Ben uncomfortable in the pocket. Unfortunately, there are a few significant factors working against that goal. Injuries to D-ends Billy Winn and Phil Taylor are alarming and even though Jabal Sheard assured us that he’s “next man up,” I have my doubts. I did not think I’d be citing Armonty Bryant as a key to a week six victory, but he is going to have to be a presence if the Browns are going to be post-game dancing again. I’m also concerned about Coach Jim O’Neil’s ability to defensively scheme, however that may be canceled out by Todd Haley’s inability to run an offense. So with that said, I will defy my better judgment and predict a Browns 27-17 victory.
K-Dubs, the Soldier: The Browns will go as far as their defense will take them. They are 31st in total yards surrendered per game, 29th in rushing defense, and 24th in points per game. They continue to get gashed outside the hash marks and give up big plays in the passing game. Even slight improvements will make a big difference for a team that has had all four games decided by a total of 8 points. That said, they did show a greater ability last week to make the big plays when they had to, including a stand on fourth & inches late in the fourth quarter. With a still-shaky secondary, I agree with Big$ that the front seven needs to get pressure on Big Ben, who is still one of the best QBs in the league, despite his extremely high level of hate-ability. I don’t really foresee such improvement this week, though, because of injuries. On the other side of the ball, the Browns have shown they can move the ball and score against the aging Steelers defense. I am encouraged because Ben Tate is back in the lineup, both Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin (who can’t catch a punt) have emerged as legitimate contributors in the passing game, and Hoyer is quickly mastering Kyle Shanahan’s system. I expect a shoot-out similar to the game we saw in Week One, with the Browns scoring late to take a 34-31 victory at home.