Browns 0 - 1. Sunday opponent at home vs New Orleans Saints. 1 p.m. kick.
Big Money: Well, it’s Week Two and I’m confused by this strange feeling circulating through my veins: I think fans of other teams call it “positivity.” Specifically I’m encouraged by the play of Brian Hoyer, which was aided by Shanahan tempering his fortunate son ego and going no-huddle. Let’s hope Kyle continues this trend in Week Two. It was also impressive to see Coach Pettine refuse to crumble at the half and instead spur some worthwhile adjustments.
Directly underneath this positivity, though, is a firm layer of concern. Number one on that list is special teams. Now that the dust has settled it’s evident that failure on almost every aspect of special teams contributed to the loss. The fake punt that flipped field position, Chris Kirksey’s inability to down a punt, lack of confidence in placekicker Billy Cundiff’s leg, and Travis Benjamin’s poor decision making on returns all were instrumental in stifling the comeback and must be addressed.
Stock up/stock down?
Big Money: Up: Johnny football, not for anything he has done on the field of course, but because Jerry Jones is probably nearing a level of desperation where he may offer a decade of 1st round picks for the Snickers- munching Q.B. Munchkin.
Down: Billy Cundiff, he was already a penny stock, but you have to drop an NFL kicker who isn’t trustworthy past 50 yards on a mild September day.
K-Dubs the Soldier: Up: Terrance West. After coming in for the injured Ben Tate, the rookie running back showed good vision and elusiveness on his way to a 100-yard game. Fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell had a big game, as well, exhibiting a punishing running style on his way to the end zone, twice.
Down: After seeing the Browns’ punter Spencer Lanning get kicked in the face, I have to go with Lanning’s sensei. You’ve got to block those flying tiger kicks, son.
Q) Did Hoyer’s performance in the second half put the Manziel talk to rest for a while?
Big Money: Short answer: God, I hope so
K-Dubs the Soldier: Had the 2nd half gone as atrociously as the 1st half, I think the amount of clamoring from the Manziel contingent of Browns fans would have been more obnoxious than at any time since the draft. But the 2nd half was actually exciting and hope-inducing. Hoyer looked strong in running the no-huddle offense. He was generally decisive, efficient, and accurate. He did hold the ball too long on a few snaps and took sacks at critical times, but overall he played well. I expect him to keep improving and for Johnny to be riding the swan, er, pine for a while.
Q) What do you think the loss of running back Ben Tate for 2-4 weeks means for the team?
Big Money: I’m not too concerned. This running attack is going to be predicated on the ability of Mack, Thomas and company mastering the Shanahan zone-blocking scheme. If the 2nd half of last week was any indication things are heading in the right direction Tate or no Tate.
K-Dubs the Soldier: Well, the Browns lost Tate early on Sunday, and didn’t miss a beat. The team averaged more than 6 yards per carry for the game. As long as the offensive line continues to wear down opposing front sevens, I think the Browns will be able to move the ball on the ground effectively, even without their number one running back. Until West shows he can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield, though, I think the team will miss Tate in the passing game.
Q) Who would you like to see LeBron start in place of this week?
Big Money: This week I’d task LeBron with starting at tight end. No way he loses his balance the way J Cameron did in the 1st quarter against Pittsburgh.
K-Dubs the Soldier: I’d love to see LeBron start in place of wideout Miles Austin. He was all but invisible against the Steelers, with two catches for 20 yards on three targets. Without suspended receiver Josh Gordon, the Browns need to stretch the field. Who better to do that than a 6ft. 9in. speedster that can jump out of the stadium?
Q) Prediction for Saints game?
Big Money: Although I referenced my positivity, I cringe at the idea of Justin Gilbert attempting to stop a Brees led-passing attack. Saints 38 Browns 24.
K-Dubs the Soldier: The Saints defense was porous last week, giving up 37 points and 571 yards of offense to the Falcons. I expect the Browns to be able to move the ball, both on the ground and through the air, and put up points. But the offense is going to have to keep pace with Brees and his precision passing attack. In the first half last week, Ben Roethlisberger had a career high in passing yards for one half, and I’m expecting some big numbers this week for Brees, too. Watch for a shoot-out, with the Browns coming up just short. Saints 31 Browns 27.