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LET THE MANZIEL ERA BEGIN (AND END SOON)

The NCP tackles Pencil Storm’s Questions Following Browns’ Week One Disaster. follow@northcoastposse

1. You said last week that this could be the worst two QB's an NFL team has brought into the regular season in league history. After week one, this painful reality is already upon us. How in the hell did Ray Farmer let this happen? With quarterback play this poor, I pity the rest of the team. There is nothing they can do to overcome 4 turnovers. Is there any hope?

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  I honestly thought Josh McCown looked good in the first drive.  In complete control of the offense, he led the Browns 91-yards on an opening drive of approximately 10-minutes.  Of course, that was before he got ear-holed as he dove for the end zone, fumbled the ball, and left the game with a concussion.  McCown has not been cleared to play yet, and the Browns officially named Johnny Manziel the starter on Friday.  If he continues to start, I think the season will be even more of a dud than previously expected.  The NCP’s take on Manziel has always been that he is just not an NFL quarterback, and Farmer’s thought process in drafting him remains material for an episode of NBC Dateline.  It deserves a two-hour special creepily narrated by Keith Morrison. 

I would love to see a Johnny-led squad lineup in the sandlot against Brett Favre’s team in a Wranglers commercial, but he does not have the arm strength to QB the Browns.  Outside of the 54-yard bomb he threw to Travis Benjamin, Manziel struggled to get the ball downfield, particularly on out routes.  With a running game that was anemic in Game 1, opposing defenses will likely stack the box and force three-and-outs ad infinitum if Johnny cannot stretch them by going over the top.  To your question, there is little any team can do to overcome four turnovers (five, if you count safety Tashaun Gipson’s fumble after his second-quarter interception), let alone a team whose starting QB is on the sidelines.  Throw in 109 yards in penalties, and you are not going to win, even against league dregs like the Jets.

That said, there is hope.  There is always hope.  The defense played toothlessly last week.  They had no pass rush, did not control the line of scrimmage on running plays, and got beat in the defensive backfield.  This week they play at home against the Titans, who were one of the worst teams in the league last year and are starting a rookie quarterback in Heisman-trophy winner, and national-championship loser, Marcus Mariota.  There is no more prime opportunity for redemption.  If the Browns can also avoid turnovers and run the ball with some effectiveness, they can be competitive, at least.   I am expecting a big turnaround.  Browns win in a tight one.


2. Who should LeBron replace in this week's starting line up?

Big $: Due to my well documented disdain for ole Johnny, it would be too easy to throw LBJ in as signal caller. In all honesty, I’d probably prefer a 2 man system of K. Love (for his sweet touch) and Kyrie (read option ball skills and elusiveness) if I was going to summon a C-Town cager to lead the offense. With that said, it almost becomes comical when you use the names Gary Barnidge and LeBron James anywhere near each other in a paragraph relating to athletics. I would without question, trot The King out at T.E. (you’re welcome, Johnny).


3. Vegas had the Browns preseason over/under win total at 6.5. After week one, if you had to bet all your gold chains on the over or under now, where would you put the line?  What is a realistic win total for this group of dawgs?

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  Granddad used to say, “Vegas was not built by losers.”  The handicappers in the desert certainly know the game better the alleged experts that flap their gums on TV each week.  What surprises me though is that the magic number is too high.  Last year, Vegas had the same over-under for the Browns, but the schedule was much more favorable.  This year, the NFC South teams have been replaced on the schedule by the NFC West, which has a chance to produce four teams with winning records.  Throw in games against an improved AFC West, as well, and the season looks kind of bleak.  The first three games are against teams that finished at the bottom of the league last year—the Jets, Titans, and Raiders.  These all appeared winnable on paper at around 12:59 p.m. last Sunday, but if the Browns lose the next two, it is hard to see many other wins down the line.  I think an over-under of 4.5 is more realistic.

4. If he were still on the squad, would you prefer T. Pryor starting over Johnny Football this week?

Big $: To be fair, I’d start Richard Pryor over Manziel (disturbing self-awareness is a trait more beneficial than anything in JFF’s repertoire). At this point, first-round Jonathan has failed to beat out two UDFA’s on the wrong side of 30. If Josh McCown didn’t attempt to live out his wildest Elway Super Bowl helicopter ride daydream, JFF would still be chilling on the sideline thinking of clunky one-liners about Merril Hoge’s formal wear. T.P. isn’t here but A.D. is, and he took some 1st team reps this week. In a perfect world, Austin Davis’s NFL resume would have earned him the right to start over Johnny, but alas Berea may be the antithesis of said perfect world. So let it be noted that I have officially put in for transfer from #hoyerswarriors to #AustinsArmy. Big $ loves ya A.D.!!!!

 

5. Something positive to take away from this loss right? Right?

K-Dubs, the Soldier: After a loss as disheartening as last week’s game, you really have to get out the Hubble Telescope to search for some positives.  At the very least, before he got knocked for a loop, both figuratively and literally, Josh McCown looked very good in leading the offense down the length of the field.  I know the Browns Faithful are not unanimous in supporting McCown, but the offense clicked when he was under center, even though big-name, free-agent wideout Dwayne Bowe sat out with a bad hamstring and the offensive line under-performed.  If McCown can come back from his concussion and stay healthy, I think the Browns can put points on the board this season.  Once he got carted off the field, though, the one bright spot was the special teams.  Punter Andy Lee averaged 54 net yards per kick, including a booming 61-yarder.  His leg should prove to be quite a weapon in field-position battles.  Rookie placekicker Travis Coons kicked a 48-yard extra-point (which was the longest in NFL history) and registered touchbacks on 2 of 3 kickoffs.  The return game also appeared improved.  Upgrading here was critical, as the failure to properly field punts cost the Browns a few chances to win games last year.  I have heard (but have not seen) that the Browns’ D is going to be among the best in the league.  If we do see a re-emergence of the Dawg Defense, the improved special teams could help snatch a few W’s along the way.

6. What do you expect from the opener this weekend?           

Big $: My general nausea over the state of the Browns probably steals the mystery from guessing who I believe will win most Browns games. So rather than stating who I expect to win or lose, I will say that I expect that this will be the second week that an ex-Brown will enact revenge on his former employer.

Last week Buster Skrine uncorked a year’s worth of watching a snot-nosed, silver-spooner make a mockery of his professional opportunity when he attempted to decapitate Johnny Manziel. One can only imagine that a guy like Skrine who clawed his way into the NFL harbors some ill will towards a guy like Johnny who was probably throwing up money signs when he checked down in 7 on 7 drills.

This week, I expect that the recently jettisoned Terrance West may be looking to seek retribution for not only being traded after a mildly successful rookie campaign, but also for the smack that was talked on his way out. Keep an eye on #35 this week as he may be playing with a couple of boulders on his shoulder.

Big $ and K-Dubs the Soldier are the North Coast Posse and they cover Browns football for Penciltorm.