We are nearing the halfway point of the season. What are your thoughts on the Browns so far?
Big$: Well, I guess I could break down the razor thin margins by which the Browns are losing, or the porous, Charmin soft run defense, but these are not the issues I find most concerning. What is truly aching me in the pit of my grizzled Cleveland sports fan soul is a much more infuriating topic. My friends, I’m at my wits end due to the consistent reminders that this team’s motto is “Play like a Brown.” Is there a more self-manufactured pile of BS than this anywhere? When the powers that be settled on this moniker, did they snicker in hopes that gullible fans would shift their thoughts to a rumbling Jim Brown or a muddy Ozzie Newsome? Or (gasp) do they think that the current organization at any level exhibits the type of effort that should be lauded. My worry is that Scheiner, Haslam and Farmer are so tone deaf that they do believe that this current configuration offers components that should be emulated anywhere at any time. Accountability, from the GM’s complete personnel failures and itchy texting finger to a renegade backup QB who is receiving the same coddling he did when he was a relevant (yet troubled) college phenom, is nonexistent. Players feel comfortable taking weeks off for injuries that wouldn’t sideline a middle schooler and this softness prevails in situations such as last week’s offensive and defensive failures in OT. When the chips are down, expect a sack on a 2 step drop or a 40 yard run up the gut. This team is infected by complacency and delusion (maybe kicker Travis Coons and punter Andy Lee received immunity at previous stops) and I personally don’t have the answer. My guess is that Pettine will become the fall guy, but my belief is that the true problems reside in positions higher on the table of organization.
Well put. Despite these problems what should we expect to see on Sunday?
K-Dubs, the Soldier: First of all, the Rams have a tough defense. It is 3rd in the league in sacks, led by what is one of the best defensive lines in the league with Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Chris Long. With former Buckeye James Laurinaitis patrolling the middle, the Rams 4-3 also ranks 10th in yards surrendered per game. Browns QB Josh McCown must eliminate the errors he has made under pressure this year—taking avoidable sacks or launching ill-advised throws. Cleveland also needs to stay in third-and-manageable situations to prevent the Rams from pinning their ears back. If they can do that, the Browns may be able to move the ball against a Rams D that, despite its strength upfront, ranks in the middle of the pack on third-down. St. Louis is allowing conversions 39 percent of the time. When the Browns are on offense, look for recently added running back Robert Turbin to get some more touches this week as the team adds a seat to its running-back-by-committee.
On the flipside, the Rams offense is a bit of an enigma. In what is now a pass-first league, Rams QB Nick Foles is only completing 16 attempts per game and no receiver has more than 200 yards on the year. They rank second-to-last in the NFL in points per game, total yards, and passing yardage. St. Louis has an explosive ground threat, though, in rookie running back Todd Gurley. He has more than 140 yards in each of the last two games, which both included runs of more than 50 yards. The Browns’ beleaguered rush defense cannot have a breakdown on any play or Gurley can take it the distance. First-round pick Danny Shelton needs to start paying some dividends in stuffing the run and pressuring the quarterback. The secondary, which will be without Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson again this week, has to be sure not to miss tackles either. This game gives the Browns D a great opportunity to flip the script on the story of its season.
Who would you start LeBron James in place of this week?
Big$: This week I’d have LeBron take the place of Paul Kruger. Not at OLB mind you, but as the resident Johnny babysitter. If he can keep the magnanimous Earl “J.R.” Smith in line he has a shot at Cleveland’s own urban cowboy.
K-Dubs, the Soldier: Just like Big$, I’m going to take this question in a slightly different direction. I would swap LeBron out for high-priced free-agent wideout Dwayne Bowe. While King James has decided just to sit out the rest of the preseason, Bowe—a weekly healthy scratch—appears to have decided to sit out the regular season.