Whether or not Tramon Williams was actually offsides, the Cleveland Browns are coming off yet another tough loss as they fell to the San Diego Chargers 30-27 on a last second field goal. Josh McCown is still searching for his first win as a member of the Browns. In fact, the McCown family is without a win with the Browns as Josh attempts to avoid matching brother Luke’s 0-4 record as a Browns starter.
To avoid such a fate, Josh McCown will travel into Baltimore to take on the Ravens. Hopefully, he can assess the situations in the game well to put the Browns in a position to succeed. Perhaps, having GM Ray Farmer back in Berea might have helped preparations. And, maybe the defense will finally provide the stabilizing anchor the team needs.
Regardless, the work week is behind us and the Browns are playing on Sunday. So, here at WFNY, we give our takes on the game.
Craig: I think it can be prudent if he’s using his running backs as receivers. 12 of those 45 passes went to Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell. A host of others were short, quick passes, which act almost like runs in some cases. I’d rather see a more even line of runs to passes, but as long as the offense works like it did against the Chargers, it’s hard to complain.
Joe: I think the Browns will need to get more balanced and run the ball more. Without Haloti Ngata on the team anymore, the Ravens are lacking a true great nose tackle to stuff the middle of the line. With the emergence of Duke Johnson last week, the Browns should utilize his talents more in the run game. The Browns have to make a concerted effort to not go away from the run game.
Michael: I tend to loathe the argument of the short pass being equivalent to the run. When the offensive line is supposed to be among the league’s elite units, then using actual runs as runs should be at the forefront. In addition, the Browns missed out on a golden opportunity last week to take advantage of an incredibly weak Charger rush defense. But, the Ravens defense the run better than the Chargers, so I expect coach Flip to continue to use Duke Johnson like Sproles. It can be effective.
Richard: When the Browns announced to the world in the off-season they were going to emphasize the run and signed McCown whom they all but described as a game manager, they invited opposing defenses to load up against the run and dare the Browns to pass. My strategy as an OC would be to hit them on practically every play where they don’t expect it. To me that means the play calling should stay very flexible and creative.
Scott: I think a lot of the play calling will come down to the flow of the game. If Joe Flacco and the Ravens strike early, the Browns may have no choice but to pass more. That said, I don’t believe the Browns can succeed without running the ball more than they did last week. Though the Ravens are “average” against the pass, they’ve been one of the toughest in the league against opposing tight ends, which just so happens to be the Browns’ only weapon not named Travis Benjamin.
Josh: With the way Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell caught the ball out of the backfield and the way Josh McCown played last Sunday, I do believe DeFillipo will stick with the passing game against the Ravens. The Browns may run the ball just to keep the defense guessing, but if this offense is to have any success, it will be through the air (and Josh McCown’s arm). Yeah, I said it.
Craig: Better hope so. Based on this group of receivers and runners, it seems repeatable for McCown to keep finding guys in space who will get yards in chunks. It’s also the Browns only real chance.
Joe: With all that said in question one, I still believe the Browns will rely heavily on the passing game. So, I think Josh McCown will extend his 300+ yard streak this week against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens pass defense is not great like it used to be, so the Browns will have an opportunity to make some plays through the air.
Michael: I hope he does not. If the Browns build a lead, then Josh McCown will not be relied upon to throw the ball upwards of 40 times in the game. The Ravens are a better overall team than the Browns (sigh), but they are also a team with great faults. The Browns best path to a win (in my opinion) is jumping on the Ravens early and holding on rather than attempting desperate comebacks as they have the last two weeks.
Richard: McCown can definitely surpass 300 yards again but one would hope he gets better protection than the 3.5 sacks per game the Browns are allowing so far. One would also hope he isn’t passing because the Browns can’t run. I heard some analyst today say the Browns needed to run more and stay on the field more to keep their defense off the field. What?! Give me an offense any day that can attack you successfully from many different angles, that can put together a 12-play drive and follow it up with a three-play drive with three long passes in a row. Just score, baby.
Scott: Nope. This is the week the streak gets snapped. Brian Hartline is banged up, Barnidge should come back down to earth and the Ravens defense isn’t the San Diego Chargers.
Josh: Yes. Leaned on heavily going forward, McCown will have plenty of chances to continue his 300+ passing yards per game streak. With the emergence of Travis Benjamin and Duke Johnson, he has some reliable players to throw it to.
Craig: I get excited whenever I see the Browns complete a screen pass. It’s been nonexistent in Cleveland for so long, so I hope I see that continue this week.
Joe: I believe the Browns versatile running back Duke Johnson could prove to be a player who can exploit the Ravens defense. The Ravens have a solid linebacker group, but Johnson’s speed and quickness will be very difficult to handle both in the pass and run game. Duke Johnson could be the key to the success of the offense this week.
Michael: Michael Vick could not take advantage last week, which led to the Ravens only win, but the weak spot on the Raven defense are their cornerbacks. The Browns do not have large wide receivers, so the patterns will need to account for quicker breaks. But, Travis Benjamin, Brian Hartline, and Taylor Gabriel need to step up this week as the Ravens have the ability to defend the tight ends and running backs.
Richard: Football is a game of adjustments. Not just at halftime but throughout a game. I don’t know if there is any asset the Browns have that is unstoppable when the other team knows what’s coming. But I think DeFilippo is getting more creative and unpredictable. Against a truly great defense that’s less important but overall against the Ravens, they’re much more vulnerable than in years past.
Scott: The only weakness I see is the pass rush with Terrell Suggs being out, which should allow for some additional time in the pocket. I’m just not confident in the Browns’ abilities to execute on this.
Josh: Obviously, the Ravens losing Terrell Suggs was a big loss for them. That being said, the Baltimore defense isn’t the Baltimore defense of old, that we’re used to. They are not only beatable, but the Browns offense should be able to rack up some yards both on the ground and through the air against Baltimore on Sunday.
Craig: I’m looking at Karlos Dansby to step up. I don’t feel as if he’s had a spectacular game and shown his ability or leadership just yet. He’s not young, but I think he’s still capable.
Joe: The Browns must get more production from Randy Starks and Desmond Bryant. Nose tackle Danny Shelton has been very solid in his first four games, but he has not received a lot of help around him. Starks and Bryant must utilize Shelton’s ability to take on blocks by taking advantage of being blocked by just one blocker. These players are the key to improving the Browns run defense.
Michael: Christian Kirksey has to become more disruptive as a pursuit backer. He is paired with Karlos Dansby due to his speed, but he rarely is making plays from across the field. It is an incredibly difficult task, but one a team with a good run defense has. I am looking for Kirksey to take ownership of any run play.
Richard: This is a tough one because at times the Browns’ D looks very sturdy against the run and at other times they’re nowhere to be seen. The breakdowns seem most glaring when there’s a huge gain with a rusher in a wide open field. My guess: When Pettine emphasizes that each player has to attend to his own assignment more consistently, I believe him.
Scott: Justin Forsett isn’t a between-the-tackles guy as much as he is an off-tackle guy who has finally started to come in to his own after a horrid first three weeks. Given the way the the Browns have been decimated around the outside, I’m looking at whomever is tasked with the edge—if that’s Paul Kruger, that’s Paul Kruger; if it’s Nate Orchard or Barkevious Mingo, then it’s them. Someone needs to step up.
Josh: Not necessarily a specific player, but the Browns defensive line must step up. They will not only need to stop the struggling Ravens’ run game, but also apply pressure on Joe Flacco, making it so that he cannot just stand in the pocket all day long.
Craig: It would help if they got some pressure on Joe Flacco. The Browns were very aggressive against Phillip Rivers and he really made them pay. Flacco is a good quarterback, but I don’t consider him the tactician that I consider Rivers to be. Hopefully the Browns will be able to mix up looks and get something done in the offensive backfield with the pass rush.
Joe: The Browns must get more pressure on the quarterback. The secondary has not played well, but the pass rush has allowed way too much time for the quarterback to throw. Putting pressure on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco could produce mistakes from him. In addition to the pass rush, the Browns should have a big advantage against the Baltimore receivers. The Ravens are without Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, leaving not much playmaking ability from their group of receivers. Especially if Joe Haden is back, the Browns secondary should have an easier time covering the Ravens receivers.
Michael: The only game the Browns defense looked good was against the Tennessee Titans when they were in Marcus Mariota’s face all game long. It would be great to replicate such a performance, but it is unlikely against the Ravens offensive line. That is, unless the defensive backfield is able to hold their coverage a bit longer and give the pass rushers more time to get to Flacco.
Scott: The obvious answer is pressuring Joe Flacco, but I would take him over the potential starting duo of Jordan Poyer and Pierre Desir in the event both Pro Bowl defensive backs can’t go.
Josh: With Joe Haden most likely returning against Baltimore, he is a huge boost for the Browns’ secondary. With Steve Smith out for the Ravens, they do not have a big-time wide receiver that they can lean on, and Cleveland will use that to their advantage. I expect to see a big day out of the Browns’ defensive backs on Sunday.
Craig: If I knew the answer to this question, I’d be a much happier person. I’ll go ahead and say it’s the pass rush. Stopping the run feels more nebulous to me than getting to opposing quarterbacks. Maybe this is the week that Paul Kruger breaks through.
Joe: The Browns secondary must step up and be the unit it was last season. It has allowed too much yardage over the first four games of the season. The Browns also must get more out of their pass rush, especially Paul Kruger.
Michael: Strangely enough, the Browns defense needs to start with the safeties and cornerbacks. The supposed strength of the team has not lived up to their potential whatsoever this season. The Ravens, even with elderly Steve Smith, do not possess a dangerous wide receiver unit. If the Browns cannot shut down these guys, then it might be time to start watching more University of California games.
Richard: I don’t think there is a substitute for rushing the passer. No quarterback … not one … looks good when the defense is constantly in his face. Going into the 2014 draft, it was reported how much Pettine liked cornerbacks. My first priority would be the D-Line, a Steel Curtain. Even when the Browns have blitzed lately, they’re not doing enough damage. They have to figure that out.
Scott: Agreeing with most of the above—pass rush. The better the pass rush, the higher potential for turnovers and other mistakes that need to happen for this Browns team to compete on a given week.
Josh: Let’s be honest, the Browns defense has been very overrated to this point. Yes, they have been put in some bad situations due to Cleveland’s offense (or lack there of) this season, but a much-hyped defense has disappointed thus far. The biggest key is probably the front-seven. If they can apply pressure to the opposing quarterback, they can make it easier for the rest of the defense, including the secondary.
Craig: I’m not concerned about special teams. Even that offside penalty by Tramon Williams doesn’t concern me. The relative ease that the Chargers drove into field goal range seems like a much larger issue. I trust the Browns special teams and Travis Benjamin. Plus, I thought Justin Gilbert looked pretty good as a kick returner.
Joe: I believe it’s more of an overall team lack of discipline rather than just the special teams. This season, the Browns have committed a lot of crushing penalties on offense, defense and special teams. The Browns have had a lot of big moments scratched because of these penalties. The Browns must be more disciplined and stop hurting themselves with penalties. As a team this needs to change.
Michael: Such a strong special team game overall ruined on the last two plays. I agree with Craig and Joe though. The penalty issue is more systemic of the team’s overall culture right now than a special teams problem specifically. Of course, such a revelation is scarier.
Richard: Agree, agree, agree.
Scott: If the team was winning, we wouldn’t even be looking at the special teams. I think it’s all been magnified given the recent play.
Josh: Wait, the penalty that wasn’t really a penalty? Oh ok, got it. But, the special teams has struggled so far, but then again, all sides of the ball have had plenty of flags thus far. So maybe it’s a team/coaching thing? With Justin Gilbert as the prime kick returner now, it will be interesting to see what the former first-round pick can bring to a special teams unit that has somewhat struggled so far in 2015.