Browns Ravens

It will be interesting to see if the Browns will “BRING IT” (I hate Michael Reghi) tonight. Here are the different looks the Browns might give the Ravens:

Either……

A) Flatter than Helen Hunt. Always a distinct possibility with the Brownies, especially due to the hard practice conditions. Thank you Jamal Lewis for all your “leadership”.

B) Half-ass it like Braylon. “Yes Rex, we knew he drops passes that cost games. What? No, you can’t have your draft picks back. You want to speak to Kokinis? Sorry, he doesn’t work her anymore.”

C) Concerted effort but totally over matched like the Rams every week. Win or lose, “Spags” has them playing hard every week. Think the Giants don’t miss him? Ask Tom Coughlin.

D) Total domination like the Browns-Giants game from last season. Just threw in this option because I needed a D). Chances are not good. All we can do is pray.

Other things to watch tonight: if Daboll (re:Mangini) finally switches up his approach by throwing screens and using Cribbs, if there is any hope for Brady Quinn, how many times the announcers use the word “protest” and the patronizing/sympathizing line that the “Browns fans deserve a winner”, if any of Mangini’s faces can top the Peyton Manning interception faces from last night.

* Before training camp we at Browns Rant lauded Kokinis(though I’m sure Mangini has a little to do with it) for his plan to build the Browns from the ground up and bolster the depth at cornerback and along the offensive line, two places which it has been sorely lacking the last few seasons. Too long had we seen Phil Savage treat the nickelback position like it was his red-headed stepchild.

The Browns added three very respected veterans with eighty four career starts between them and two rookies to take their shot at it. That worked out as well as Brian Daboll’s game plan the last couple weeks. Ivy and Hood got chopped, Carey got stolen by the Jaguars, Hank Poteat “won” the competition and gets the bulk of the reps at nickel and is as embarrassing as the new season of “The Office”. Coye Francies, the sixth rounder who showed flashes in the preseason, is inexplicably glued to the bench(maybe Mangini doesn’t like guys who can’t take a joke).

As far as the offensive line is concerned, consider the following sequence from the Browns-Broncos game. John St. Clair, the prize OL free agent pickup, had a false start and gave up two sacks-in consecutive plays. That could very well be the worst three play stretch by a Browns offensive lineman ever.

* The Keystone Beer keys to the game are:

Blitzing: You probably thought I was talking about Rex Ryan’s defense, right? Wrong. Want to see me predict the future? OK, here goes. The Ravens are going to blitz early and often. And this is good for us. Do you think I’m crazy yet?

The truth is that Brady Quinn actually hasn’t been half bad when the other team has blitzed; he usually gets it to the right guy and recognizes when Braylon is getting single coverage. Couple that with fact that Ravens secondary has not looked to pretty thus far,except for Mr.Reed. Quinns problems arise when he has to stare at seven defenders in coverage while worrying if John St Clair fell asleep again. If the Browns take advantage they might actually be able to hit on some big plays(read: longer that fifteen yards)for a change.

Nickelback: Hank Poteat has been absolutely atrocious in both games. It’s time for Francies to start stealing playing time except Mangini feels that that would send a terrible message to the young impressionable teenagers of Northeast Ohio after the stunt he pulled on Friday. The bottom line is we need improved play from this position if we want any hope of getting off the field on third downs.

These are obviously besides for the usual cliche keys to the game: The Browns getting a run game going; substituting for the run game with misdirections and screens; Brady Quinn not sucking; stopping the run and might personal favorite: setting up the passing the game with the run game. I leave those for tomorrows announcers. Wouldn’t want to steal their thunder.

* In the “Best Damn Browns Preview” and in Report: Browns RB “really sucks” Max Rage and I have gone to great lengths to prove to the jury that Jamal Lewis was worse at running the football than Steve Young was at giving color commentary. Wow were we wrong.

First Lewis ran like it was 2007, being decisive and showing a nice strong burst while finishing the day with eleven carries for fifty seven yards. Then Steve Young goes out and delivers a mute button breaking performance and a previously impossible I-can’t-believe-I’m-saying-this-but-I-wish-Tony-Kornheiser-was-here moment.

On a scale from believable(Ellen DeGeneres is a lesbian) to unbelievable(Lindsay Lohan is a lesbian) here’s how I rank this weeks events: Kameron Wimbley’s one sack, three quarterback hits and three tackle day( which, if your keeping score, is another guy I threw under the bus. My bad, Kamerion. Much love.); Drew Brees torching the Lions for six touchdowns( apparently their “mentors” didn’t do a good enough job); Kanye West berating Taylor Swift, thereby making a fool of himself; Jamal Lewis’s solid day; Kanye West on Jay Leno making a even bigger fool of himself (does he have a CD coming out?); the end of the Bengals-Broncos game(talk about hard knocks); the Pats comeback over the Bills, Dick Jauron’s face watching the Pats comeback over the Bills and Steve Young nails-scratching-against-a-chalkboard performance. Seriously, it was that unbelievably bad. But I digress. The bottom line is Jamal Lewis didn’t look half bad and James Davis either looked like a guy who just got concussed in a car accident or like a guy who faced NFL starters for the first time.

* After the game on Sunday was mercifully over I was gripped with a wave of depression as I made my way back to my car. “Why was I so depressed”, I kept on asking myself. It’s not like this was unexpected, right? Heck, we were even winning at halftime. So what was my problem?

On the way home it hit me like Hines Ward hitting Keith Rivers. I wasn’t bothered that special teams and penalties basically cost us the game after Mangini promised change and discipline. Change takes time, especially if you just spent the last four years playing pick up football with Romeo. Brady Quinn looked shaky at best but that wasn’t gnawing at me either. What really made my blood boil was the offensive coordinator and head coach playing not to lose. Nothing makes me lose my head more than that. You see, once you play not to lose the game is essentially over; you cannot win. Losing is inevitable; the only question is what the catalyst will be.

Take the first drive, after Brad Childress decides to give the Browns a gift at the fifty yard line and the Browns have been moving the ball on the ground and through the air. With momentum at their back on third and nine from the twenty one yard line, they decide the best move is to basically run it and take the three points. Seriously that’s what they did; that little shuffle pass gets you nine yards once every twenty times. The first drive of the season and they are already playing not to lose.I don’t care how inexperienced your QB is; if you can’t trust your quarterback in that situation than he should not be your in there. Consider this; Quinn did not throw a pass on third down until the fourth quarter.

Another thing that bothered me (which Mangini has subsequently apologized for) was the two straight runs out of the wildcat at the goal line. The first one was understandable; the second one unforgivable. No surprise, no wildcat. It’s that simple. I also felt there was a little lack of imagination offensively. Where were the screen passes? Why not try to get the ball to Cribbs in space, like the Vikings kept on doing with Harvin? “The Canadien Bull” has a lot of work to do.

* As for Brady Quinn, apparently he’s a work in progress, which is expected at this point of his career. Still, the dinking and dunking is really starting to grate on my nerves. From what I saw he definetly left some plays on the field and looked afraid to take a shot, which is a terrible trait for a quarterback to have. In the huddle he looked like a guy who tells his dying wife that everything is going to be okay but she’s knows the truth. His timing on his slants where way off and that “miscommunication” with Braylon is on him, not to mention his Garo Yepremian-esque fumble.

What’s that you say? I shouldn’t pass judgement after one game? I’m not, I just simply want to point out what we should be watching for in the next couple of weeks. By the way Eric, it might help if you show a little confidence in the kid and actually let him throw a pass on third down.

* Now the good news. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw the defense play. They played with fire and intensity. Rob Ryan called a great game, showing them a lot of different looks and blitzing plenty. Actual blitzing!

I felt like a father who’s kid becomes a doctor; could you imagine my Browns, after all these years of me asking, pleading, cajoling, screaming and even begging for a aggressive defense, finally they are making me proud and listening to me. It was surreal.

Didn’t you love the extensive use of the “46” defense? The corners played well considering they weren’t tested much. Kamerion Wimbley and Abe Elam had outstanding performances, especially in the first half. Even Brodney Pool, who has been comatose since his pick against the Giants last season added a sack and seemed to be around the ball. Besides for Adrian Peterson’s sixty four yard scamper (like a bad song you accidentally hear on the radio, I can’t get Chris Berman’s, “and there goes Peterson, Whoop! Whoop!” out of my head) the Browns defense mostly was victimized by shoddy special teams(I was speaking to Max Rage and he made a very good point. The person who could be single handedly the most responsible for the Browns losing on Sunday? Dave Zastudil.

Think about it. Zastudil’s terrible line drive punts were the main reason the the Vikings were able to get such big returns. Did I mention Max hates Zastudil?) and being on the field for too long more than any thing else.

Welcome to the first annual BROWNSRANT BROWNS PREVIEW. Hey, how’s everyone doing. First, a little housekeeping. Browns Rant would like to welcome our new columnist Max Rage, who, as his name indicates, really blows his stack sometimes. I mean Hillary Clinton PMS style. You can read his first offering on Browns RB Jamal Lewis here.

Now a disclaimer. Browns Rant will NOT make any predictions of any kind in terms of record. Any intelligent football fan knows that it’s arbitrary and involves too many variables. Consequently, even if one makes a good prediction it’s usually due to some factor that one never considered or was dismissed as irrelevant or was so obvious that everyone else thought of it. Unfortunately, we still can predict with almost certainty that the Browns will not be good this year. They have too many question marks and I don’t see them all getting resolved. Do I think they are going to be 2-14 like Peter King does? I doubt he even looked at the schedule considering the Browns are playing a team that went winless last year(Detroit); a team that just fired their Offensive Coordinator a week before the season(KC); a team that drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall and whose Head Coach reportedly pounded a guy in the face ; a team that traded away it’s franchise QB, is trying to trade it’s franchise WR and features Andra Davis as starting ILB as part of arguably the worst front seven in football(Broncos); a team who went 5-11 last year and has former Brown and Josh Cribbs’ financial guru Dennis Northcutt skillfully hauling in passes at WR(Jaguars). You have to think they take a few of those games, and that’s without even mentioning the Bengals(who we play twice),the Bills and the “any given Sunday” factor. So Peter, please, do us a favor and write a nice long article about Brett Favre’s jockstrap (no I don’t mean Brad Childress) and leave the predicting to someone else. Without further ado……

Coaching: When the Brown’s tabbed Eric Mangini to be there next coach everyone thought Randy Lerner was out of his mind or just plain stupid. We would’ve much rather Josh McDaniels or Scott Pioli, right? Now these organizations look like Britney Spears; spiraling out of control and repeatedly shooting themselves in the leg(Do NOT insert your Plaxico Burress joke here. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that stupid joke along with the pretentious exclamatory “no pun intended!”. I’m looking at you Jay Leno. No more.) There is no question that the Browns will be more disciplined and aggressive under Mangini than Romeo, which really is like saying America will be more liberal under Obama than Bush. The question is this.Has Mangini learned from his mistakes with the Jets when at times he seemed to play not to lose? He better, or else Randy Lerner will hire Art Shell to take his place in four years. You would also like to see the Browns develop some sort of identity on offense, and with Mangini that should mean running the football and a ball control based scheme which would be fine if you didn’t have Jamal Lewis as your starting RB. I don’t buy in to the the Browns rhetoric that they will be a game plan specific team like the Patriots just yet ; then again we don’t have toys like Brady, Moss and Welker. Needless to say, the play-calling will be carefully watched. Obviously they will tone it down a little for Brady Quinn; I just hope that means more screens to Harrison and Cribbs and not more of Jamal Lewis diving for two yards. On the defensive side you have to love Rob Ryan talking like he’s Rex and coaching like he’s Buddy(you know with the whole 46 defense and all). The only thing is Mangini is known for his “bend but don’t break defense” so either Ryan just likes to talk or (gasp!) Mangini might be coming around on the whole blitzing thing. We haven’t seen a Browns linebacker blitz since Jamir Miller(Sorry Willie, what you were doing all these years cannot even loosely be described as blitzing). If the preseason is any indication the special teams should be a crack squad. On a related note, BLAKE COSTANZO MADE THE TEAM!! I begged Mangini not to cut him and force him to trade first names with Browns G.M. Kokinis and he apparently has started to listen to me. Or maybe that’s “Jimmy” doing his thing.

Offense: Guess what one of the keys is for the Browns offense this year. I’ll give you a hint.

The Patriots do it.

The Steelers do it.

Heck, even the Toronto Argonauts do it.

Screen passes. Yes, screen passes will be one of the keys for the offense this year, especially since we’re operating with assumption that Brady Quinn will be the starter ( even though I fully expect Mangini to send him out with a ski mask under his helmet we should be able to figure out it’s him by his biceps)and since the offensive line may have some problems opening up holes (apparently only for Jamal Lewis) we will need some other way to compensate for these yards. Enter the screen pass, which offers a great way to accomplish the objectives you want from your running game while also getting the football into the hands of your play makers. I’d say chalk up the Brown’s up for at least four a game this season. Obviously, I hope they also do other things to spice it up like the no-huddle and the “Flash” package(which we rarely saw last season). Another thing they shouldn’t be shy about is throwing the ball down the field in the beginning of games. If your afraid Brady will throw a pick then tell him to chuck it out of bounds. It’s imperative that the opponent know that it’s in our arsenal.

Quarterbacks: Let’s keep this internal for now.

Running Backs: I expect Lewis to start the first few games, average 1.9 YPC and then to be benched. James Davis has looked pretty solid during the preseason with a nice burst through the line and a penchant for the big play. And if you watched the Bears game you saw Davis doing a great job at picking up the blitz numerous times. Keep Beanie the human hamstring pull” Wells. We’ll take James Davis. Even though he seems to have been forgotten I still expect Jerome Harrison to touch the ball plenty. Remember, Mangini loved experimenting with Leon Washington in N.Y.

Offensive Line: Going into training camp I was as high as Michael Beasley (low blow alert-pun intended) on the Browns offensive line. With the drafting of “The Mack Truck” and the signing of Womack and St. Clair, and with Tuck, Rex Hadnot and Hank Fraley providing depth I thought we were stacked. Now? Tuck is gone, St. Clair hasn’t made anyone forget Kevin Shaffer and they haven’t been able to run to the right side the whole preseason. Penalties abound and laps have been run. Plus, our “swing tackle” is some guy named Phil Trautwein, who looks like he became a offensive lineman just because he looks like one. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wide Receiver: If Braylon learns how to catch a football, Cribbs steps up to be a number two reciever, Furrey makes key third down grabs and Massaquoi and Robiskie develop and contribute this year we should be good. You get the point.

Tight End: Royal is a big upgrade when he’s blocking over Winslow who after all his bravado blocked like a third grade girl. We need seventy receptions from the tight ends this year. Steve Heiden is definitely good for thirty. It will be very interesting to see what Martin Rucker can contribute. I really don’t see why Phil Savage had to trade his children for this guy; at best he looks like a decent pass catcher. But don’t discount the added blocking; I think that more than compensates for Winslow’s offense. Well, almost.

Built in excuses for the offense: Jamal Lewis is washed up; John St. Clair keeps on missing blocks; D.A. standing on the field and tripped Josh Cribbs ;(this joke is approaching Plax overkill status but until then…)Mangini doesn’t divulge which plays he wants to run to the team; the elements; Braylon Edwards catches a football like a third grade girl and last but not least: our OFFENSIVE CORDINATOR IS CANADIEN!! How can the players possibly respect him? He speaks French and gets free health care. That’s a built in excuse if I ever saw one.

Bottom Line: I don’t see anyway the offense doesn’t improve this season. We’re talking about a team who averaged 100 yards per game rushing and less than 150 passing. Plus, contrary to popular belief we do have playmakers. Your excused if you can’t get it to Edwards if he drops passes but we should be creative enough to get into the hands of Josh Cribbs. We should see a improved running game with James Davis and behind a offensive line that despite it’s problems is arguably the best in the division.

Defense: I feel like Romeo and Mel Tucker used to send out the Browns defense and tell them, ” Go out there and have fun. Remember it’s not if you win or lose but how you play the game. Now remember Shaun,your not different then anybody else. You also have to count to three Mississippi before you rush the passer. Oh, by the way, the offense sucks so you probably will be on the field for most of the game but fear not we have the oxygen masks ready to go”. Undoubtedly the Browns defense still has it’s question marks; the lack of play-makers and the perennial lack of pass rush just to name a few, but we still should be much better than last years squad. Remember Terry Cousin and Travis Daniels? That was a nightmare. How about Andra “drag me five yards” Davis? Can’t you just see him hanging on to L.T. for the last twenty yards of a touchdown run? One thing you have to give him credit for; he wasn’t able to bring you down, but no matter what you did he never let go. And who can forget the “leadership” Big Willie brought to the team. We can’t, because Mary Kay wrote eight articles reminding us. Point is, at least this season we get to see a real live NFL-style defense with all the trimmings like hitting and blitzing.

Defensive Line: Probably all around the best unit on the team which includes our only true stud in Shaun Rogers and two lunch-pail types in Robaire Smith and Kenyon Coleman. It really hit the Browns hard when Robaire when down last season. These guys do exactly what 3-4 lineman are supposed to do; A) hold the point of attack and two gap and B) collapse the pocket if possible, which is why Corey Williams is such a horrible fit for this defense since he does none of those things well(which just further illustrates what kind of bonehead Phil Savage was. How do you trade a second round pick for him and give thirty eight million dollars to a guy to do something he has never done before? What was he thinking? ). I do expect to see him on passing downs when we can utilize his ability to shoot the gaps, which is what he did in Green Bay( Ironically the Packers also switched to the 3-4 defense this off season under Def. Coordinator Dom Capers, but the scheme they run calls for the defensive lineman to shoot the gaps which is what he’s good at). Ahtyba Rubin and C.J. Mosely are also talented players which gives the Browns good depth.

Linebackers: I’m really down on Kamerion Wimbley. Sure, I know the coaches plan to move him around this year. I just don’t think it will help. The little boy Browns fan inside me has already created highlight reels of Wimbley taking off Big Ben’s head but then reality sets in. This guy doesn’t lack the work ethic, talent or intensity to get it done. Is it really the elusive “counter move” or is it in his head? It’s just so frustrating after the monster rookie season he had. On the other hand Eric Barton is a huge upgrade over Davis, and he’s only a decent player at best. Not having Davis should shave the YPC by a half a yard at least. Everyone talks about D’Quell Jackson being close to a Pro Bowl player; I say he’s definitely tackles a lot of people but he doesn’t make enough impact plays. He might get there though. David Bowens? Decent Veteran. Alex Hall? Needs more consistency but love his talent. David Veikune? Encouraging preseason until the Bears game; got a lot of first-team reps. Kaluka Maiva? Special team demon. Leon Williams? Wondering why he made the team.

Secondary: Max Rage loves the corners. I’m afraid of them. They are ball hawks but young and too inconsistent in coverage. And what’s with the celebrations and gyrations every time your opponent throws a incomplete pass? Are you guys totally oblivious to the fact that this is a very common occurrence? That it happens approximately 40% percent of the time? Maybe Hank Poteat can provide some “veteran leadership” while he fights for the nickel back spot with Coye Francies, who is looking very,very good. I think Abe Elam and Brodney Pool will get beat deep plenty this year. I hate to say it but I’d be more comfortable if we had Sean Jones back there.

Built in excuses for defense: Too many Jets; Rob Ryan’s hair was getting in the way of the chalk board during meetings; Bryan Cox is a “butt head”; lack of playmakers; we never blitz.

Bottom Line: Again, I don’t see how this unit doesn’t improve at least against the run. Against the pass we could be in for a very long season. Mangini must find a way to manufacture some pass rush.

Well that’s it. Hope you enjoyed. One last note. Every year we get all psyched up about the Browns and every year they deliver mind numbing disappointment. Remember how deflated every one was after the pathetic showing against the Cowboys last year? Troll the message boards and you will see Browns fans predicting 7-9 or 8-8 seasons. Even a few occasional playoff picks. Now check out what the local and national media predicts. I’m not saying they know what they’re talking about, I’m just saying that we as fans our a little biased. Of course, we should demand excellence from our team but we shouldn’t expect it like it’s the most natural thing in the world as if we were Pat’s fans. We’re not. We’re Browns fans, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Even if it means rooting for Jamal Lewis.