So, what happened in Jacksonville?
Big$: OK everybody take a deep breath, close your eyes and imagine Jay Locker never suffers a 1st-half concussion against the Browns. What ensues is a horror-show that would rival anything basic cable is going to trot out over the next week. Folks, that’s a much closer representation of who the Browns really are as opposed to the spunky upstarts Disney Sports (aka ESPN) painted them to be after one Steelers victory. I agree that they seem to be headed in a better direction than during the Shurmur/Chud era, but heck, fans of the Washington Generals had more reason for optimism during that span. The scum of losing isn’t going to be scrubbed away with one victory. I envision a three-prong process towards that end: perseverance - consistency - excellence. They can begin that process by bouncing back from last week’s loss against the Jaguars. The key to sparking this turnaround is going to be the veteran leadership. Joe T., Hoyer, Whitner, Dansby, etc., are going to have to prove their worth both on and off the field. Whether this will occur remains to be seen but what happens this Sunday will tell us a lot about the real direction of the 2014-2015 Browns.
K-Dubs, the Soldier: What is it like to be a Browns fan? I am like a guy that can’t stop loving a woman that continues to cheat on him and do him wrong. Every time I think she has changed her ways and things are going to be good from now on, she goes and breaks my heart again. My hope is that last week’s ass-whoopin’ at the hands of Jacksonville was akin to my allegorical girlfriend having a harmless happy-hour flirtation, and not her telling me, “I’m pregnant with your brother’s baby.” Based on last week’s game, however, it is hard to tell. Missing Alex Mack at center really seemed to eviscerate the Browns offense. Although the movement of John Greco to center from guard and pulling Paul McQuistan off the bench to fill Greco’s spot worked well in the 2nd half against the Steelers, the interior of the line struggled against a statistically poor Jaguars defense. It seemed that the Browns could not cut off the linebackers when run-blocking, particularly on the backside. As a result, the Browns, who entered the game with the second best rushing attack in the league was held to just 69 yards on 30 carriers, for a miniscule 2.3-yards-per-carry average. The team was often left facing 3rd down-and-long situations and could not convert because Brian Hoyer threw the ball like total shit, missing some wide-open targets, and when he was on the mark, the receivers had some uncharacteristic drops. (I’m looking at you Andrew Hawkins.) Hoyer’s numbers were bad, 16 for 41 and 215 yards, and he looked even worse compiling them, as the team managed just 284 yards. For its part, the Browns D also struggled against the run, allowing 127 yards to Denard Robinson - yes, the former Michigan quarterback. Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, but it was the timing of those yards that killed, as he kept drives going by moving the chains on 3rd down. The pass defense was not terrible, picking off rookie quarterback Blake Bortles three times and limiting him to 159 yards, but he left the stadium with a “W” and the Browns left with a black eye.
Who would I start LeBron over this week?
Big$: Keep in mind, this is Lebron 2.0 were talking about. He returns with a blend of championship experience, humility, talent and strategic know-how rarely seen in any field. With that said, I’d like to put LBJ in charge of the locker room this week. Let Pettine get a clipboard and take notes from a true champion and hope some of the King’s excellence rubs off on him.
K-Dubs, the Soldier: I would like to see Bron-Bron line up at guard instead of Paul McQuistan this week. Even with his off-season weight loss, I think Lebron is still big enough to play guard, and he is definitely quick enough to play in the zone-blocking scheme. We need him to help open running lanes for the Browns trio of backs. Plus defenders couldn’t see over him, so they wouldn’t know when to put up their hands to bat down Hoyer’s passes.
What is your prediction for this week?
Big$: Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano and Pettine have a history, which means they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge comes the ability to plan for and exploit said strengths and weaknesses. I think both teams are going to load the box and, just like the Jaguars, I expect the Raiders to bum-rush the middle of the Browns O-line with Alex Mack sidelined. It is my hope that Browns are twice shy and plan accordingly through formations that utilize a fullback or H-back, etc. I trust that Kyle Shanahan can achieve this and for the 2nd time in 3 weeks I will defy my better judgment and predict a Browns 21 to 7 victory.
K-Dubs, the Soldier: For the second week in a row, the Browns are taking on a winless team with a rookie quarterback. The Raiders have handed the team over to Derek Carr, who has gotten good reviews for his work so far (60.5 completion percentage, 8 TDs, 5 Ints), but they still rank last in the league in scoring at 15.3 points per game and total yards per game at 282.7. They also rank last in the league in rushing at 69.3 yards per game. This is good news for the Browns, who made Robinson, a former college quarterback that doesn’t even tie his shoes, look like an all-star last week. The key when the Raiders have the ball is keeping them in 3rd-and-long and confusing Carr in terms of coverage. Keep an eye on a potential match-up between Browns cornerback Joe Haden and James Jones, the Raiders’ top receiver. If Haden can lock James down, the Browns can further limit the Raiders’ passing game. On the other side of the ball, the Raiders aren’t much better. They give up the 8th-most points in the league (26.3), and their 3rd-down conversion rate will blow your mind. Teams are converting on 53 percent of their 3rd downs! (Not a typo!) If the Browns can keep the sticks moving and keep the ball away from Carr and the awful Raiders offense, I think they can chalk up a win this week. The key again will be the play of the interior of the offensive line. For the new line-up, I expect having another week of work under their belts will better prepare them to take on the Raiders’ base 4-3. Look for the Browns to control the clock on the way to a 24-10 win.