It’s nice seeing a win. Or actually, I should say that it’s nice to see that the Browns won. Unfortunately, I had to spend the weekend working on a project in Washington DC, so I was unable to tune into the game and watch the Browns come out on top. On the bright side though, y’all will be spared my rambling about what went wrong, who I was disappointed with, and what needs to be improved looking forward. So instead I will just touch on a bit of other Browns news from the past few days, as well as give a short preview of this weekend’s game:
– The loss of Jordan Cameron (again) is big. But how big? While Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray have performed well when they have been targeted (5 catches for 54 yards on 8 targets and 9 catches on 11 targets for 118 yards and a touchdown, respectively), neither can really be considered a receiving tight end in the way that Cameron is. Although he has been relatively quiet and ineffective this season so far, his loss for the next game or two will have a significant impact on the offense. Brian Hoyer has been struggling over the past few weeks, and with no running game to lean on ever since the loss of Alex Mack, he has started to lean more heavily on Cameron. If the running game repeats last week (25 carries for 39 yards) against the Buccaneers on Sunday, then this game will be quite ugly for Cleveland. Although Andrew Hawkins has been playing well, Miles Austin has been consistently making key plays, and Taylor Gabriel has been out-performing everyone’s wildest expectations, an offense that expects to be successful and consistently move the chains while depending just on those three players is not at all realistic. The running game needs to step back up to early season form this week in order to make up for the absence of Cameron, otherwise a repeat of Jacksonville should be expected.
– Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neill has instituted a really cool system in the Browns’ locker room. Each defensive player has been given a dog collar that hangs in their locker. For each “Play Like A Brown” play they make during a game, they are gifted a dog bone to hang from their collars. Now, I’m not quite sure what the heck a “Play Like A Brown” play is or means, but I love this idea. Being the overly competitive freak that I am, the idea of receiving some type of little reward to symbolize my dominance and success at whatever I am doing is beautiful. This type of system creates a lot of healthy competition among players in the locker room, as each tries to outplay and outdo the others in order to win a bone. Although systems like this could potentially be detrimental to a team’s on-field cooperation, the way this system is set up has the opposite effect. From my understanding, a “Play Like A Brown” play doesn’t only refer to things like sacks or forced turnovers, but also can refer to acts such as absorbing multiple blockers at the line of scrimmage or successfully disrupting the timing of a receiver and causing the quarterback to make a poor pass or decision. This kind of system enhances the functionality of a squad by successfully incentivizing players to create opportunities for their teammates to make big plays and get the glory, thus making the team as a whole better. The other added benefit, at least in my eyes, of this system is that it gives players extra reason to play hard even when they are comfortably ahead in a game and have room to relax a little. Similarly, it incentivizes players to continue to give it their all even when the came seems out of reach, helping create the opportunities for comebacks like the one that occurred against the Tennessee Titans. Basically, what I am trying to say here is props to O’Neill for coming up with a brilliant and simple system to keep his players invested in playing well.
– As for this week, the Browns face a third bottom-dweller in a row. With injuries really hindering them right now, this is quite fortunate for the Browns. Sitting only one game out of first place in the division, this game is a must win for the Browns, and realistically it is one that they can and should take. The Buccaneers have been spectacularly bad this year, with what was lauded as a talented defense falling disgustingly short of expectations. Lavonte David has been playing very well, already having racked up 80 tackles on the year, while Gerald McCoy has also been performing at a high level. But two players do not make a defense, and there have been times where it has appeared that they were the only two actually on the field. Unfortunately for them, their offense has been nearly as poor as their defense, with the passing unit ranked 28th this year while the ground attack is 29th. Doug Martin has been a non-factor this year, and Vincent Jackson has been disappointing all season as well. The Browns defense should be able to continue to come up with turnovers this week, and a weakened offense should be able to do enough against a poor defense to give the Browns the victory this week:
Prediction: Browns 27 – Bucs 13