Wow, so here we are. Again. Ugh. The highs… the lows… the suspensions… the staph. It really is like a soap opera. We’re all thankful that Rock’s head hasn’t yet exploded Scanners-style, and are hopeful that this post doesn’t push him over the edge. We wrote last week: “One 35-14 Eli-drubbing later, the Browns might just have a new season on their hands.” Nope. We don’t. Same old Browns.
The Browns sit at 2-4 and are on the road against a tough, physical Jacksonville team this weekend. The Browns have had a week chock full of all sorts of distractions, most of them Kellen Winslow-related. So, can they rally together? Can they come out with the focus and intensity they had against the Giants two weeks ago? Can someone lock Derek Anderson in his hotel room? Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they can somehow stop the Jags formidable running attack. I have nightmares about the Jaguars setting NFL records against the Browns this weekend in terms of the running game. Of course the other rules about Derek Anderson (or anybody else for that matter) showing up to play a decent QB applies this week and every week from here on out.
Scott: …if the team gets it going right out of the gate. We cannot afford to wait for the fourth quarter complete your tenth pass of the game. We need to spread the ball around to several receivers, opening up the gates for Jamal Lewis. Jacksonville’s pass defense can be exploited, so why not capitalize on their weaknesses? On the other end of the ball, we need to keep Maurice Jones Drew at bay; a lot better than we did versus Clinton Portis. In fact, eight in the box would not be a bad option for the majority of the game – force David Garrard to throw the ball. There’s no chance that JAX’s wide outs are better than those of NYG or WAS. I have faith that Wright, McDonald and Pool can get the job done. Just stop the run!
DP: …the team has somehow managed to block out the Winslow distraction/debacle, and has secretly replaced Derek Anderson with a quarterback who can actually get the ball to an open receiver. Against the Redskins, we saw a Browns team that managed to compete despite playing one of the worst offensive games in recent memory and despite giving up huge gains on the ground. Jones-Drew is averaging 4.6 yards a carry, and the Browns seem to help pad those stats for opposing backs. This game will hinge on the Browns’ ability to move the ball consistently and rest their defense, and then cash in on some points. This means a steady diet of Lewis, Harrison, and high-percentage passing (which hopefully means Quinn). I don’t fear the Jags’ comeback ability nearly as much as I fear their ability to get ahead and run the ball at will to keep the Browns’ offense off the field. So, the Browns have to basically play keep-away with the ball: time of possession, win the turnover battle, and then put points on the board.
RockKing: …the bizarro DA shows up again. Jacksonville is a solid team, but they’re not a great team. Offensively, the Jags have not been super proficient this year, and they’re not exactly putting up a ton of points (22nd in the NFL at 20.7 pts/game). As long as the Browns linebackers can somewhat slow down the Jags’ running game, I believe the Browns defense can keep them in this game. So once again, it all falls on the offense, and by default, Derek Anderson. Wonderful, huh? Just remember, though, that Jacksonville’s defense has also not been great this year. Statistically, the Browns’ defense has been better than Jacksonville this year. The Browns are 18th in yards against per game (Jacksonville is 24th), 7th against the pass (Jacksonville is 23rd), and 7th in points against per game (Jacksonville is 13th). The only area Jacksonville has been better defensively than the Browns is against the run. The point is, the Browns’ defense should be able to keep the Browns in this game, and if there’s a way to beat Jacksonville, it’s through the air. If DA can summon up the ghost of DA past (read: the Giants game version of himself), the Browns can win this football game. If DA looks like he usually does, though, the Browns have no chance because, let’s be honest here, that regular DA is incapable of beating anybody at this point.
Rick: …they get confused and think it’s a home game? We know that this team is capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday, but they certainly struggle on the road. If Anderson hasn’t completed more than 55% of his passes in the 1st quarter I hope Crennell has the common sense that God gave to dogs and puts Quinn in the game. Defensively, the Browns are going to have to do some run blitzing. Let Wright and McDonald stand out on the islands so we can get some pressure on the QB and put a body in every gap. Despite all that is happening with this team, the fans can agree on one thing- we all want the team to win. Winning will help ease a lot of tensions in Berea.
Mike…if Derek Anderson can somehow…good God, I’m I really going to dive into the “if D.A. can just complete 50% of his attempts this week…” routine again? NO! I just can’t do it with a good concience anymore. If Romeo Crennel leaves the guy in the game, they better run Jamal Lewis 30 times and give Harrison and Wright 10 more between them because Anderson isn’t consistent enough to be relied on week to week at this point in his career…if ever. With offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski doing his Mike Martz impression upstairs every Sunday, I just don’t see that happening. Hopefully the defense will rally together this week and slow down the Jags running game. If not, this game could be a little rough to watch.
Now, for the other side of the coin. What do the Jags think about this game? We reached out to the guys over at Big Cat Country, a Jaguars Blog dedicated to “America’s Team”. Big Cat Country seeks to remind the NFL World that the Jaguars have fans–fans that care about their team–and also to fill in the conspicuous absence of Jaguars coverage on the national level. Chris Harris is the Editor-in-Chief of Big Cat Country, and in the process of breaking down the game fired a jovial shot across our collective bow: “We especially love reminiscing about the days of the AFC Central, except for the parts we can’t remember because of all the beer bottles being thrown at us.” Without further ado…
The Jaguars Will Win If…
…the teal and black return to their traditional style of football, sitting at 3-3 and coming off their bye week. This means running the ball and stopping the run, something the Jaguars have struggled with since week one. Brad Meester will return to the offensive line at center, and his veteran presence and leadership will return the line to it’s pre-injury-decimation form, at least in theory. The value of having Meester back on the line cannot be understated, Dennis Norman, while technically sound, lacks the vocal leadership of Meester, especially when facing tougher defensive tackles, like Shaun Rogers.
Running the ball will be the focus. Fred Taylor is 43 yards from reaching 11,000 for his career, a milestone that’s been on his mind since opening day. Maurice Jones-Drew is politely but firmly asking for the ball, and there’s no doubt that if he gets the touches, it’ll be a long day for Cleveland. With Matt Jones likely to face a suspension sometime in the next few weeks, this would also be a good game for Jerry Porter to prove that all that guaranteed money was money well spent. On offense, look for the run to set up the pass, especially with play action. Matt Jones is still nearly unstoppable when running the quick slants, but for this to net yards, the Browns need their linebackers to be looking for the run. Should Cleveland put Jacksonville in a position to make the Jaguars rely on the pass, all bets are off.
Something to look out for is David Garrard running the ball. He spoke to the media about his frustration with watching tape of his runs: he thinks he’s heading to the sideline too much and wants to focus on going forward. He can take on a linebacker when he’s running with the ball, especially on 4th and short.
Defensively, the burden is on the “playmakers” to actually, you know, make plays. Rashean Mathis has been consistant, but guys like Drayton Florence and Brian Williams will have to step up and prove their worth. The Jaguars have been burnt a few times through the air, and long gains from poor tackling compound the problem. The “Gregg Williams Attack Scheme” is changing back toward the Del Rio cover 2, which is a much more comfortable role for the Jaguars defense, especially the linebackers. Mike Peterson, who’s had an awful season, knows that his job (and a free agency paycheck) is on the line if he continues to disappoint. John Henderson is looking more and more like a guy who needed Marcus Stroud in order to perform. In a nutshell, the defense needs to play like the Jaguars defense of old, not like an old Jaguars defense.
Stopping the Jaguars means stopping the run and keeping the defense on the field. If you allow sacks and tackles for loss, the Jaguars defense can keep you out of a game. Long drives wear them out and even if they don’t always score, the Browns can find themselves with a worn out opponent in the 4th quarter should you keep on grinding on them. Anderson will have to watch out though with the passing game, Reggie Nelson and Rashean Mathis can be ball hawks if he’s not careful.
I’m confident that the Jaguars will pull out a win on Sunday, but frankly, with this team, nothing can be taken for granted. When they fire on all cylinders, they’re difficult to stop. If you turn them one-diminsonal, you can walk away with a nice win to go with the upset of the Giants.
What does everyone else think?