CLEVELAND- The Cleveland Browns (2-5) continue to plummet. The offensive line failed miserably to contain the Rams (3-4) pass defense. Quarterback Josh McCown was under too much pressure. The receivers and running backs failed to secure the football. The offensive line racked up too many penalties. There are just too many problems for this team to overcome.
Also, the image of being a tough defense and running the football is not working. The Browns continue to allow running backs to control the tempo. The running game needs to improve. The passing attack has some success at times but there wasn’t enough time for McCown to make his reads in this game.
Today Cleveland faces the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are superior both defensively and offensively. The Browns cannot stop the resurgent Chris Johnson with their usual ineffective attempts to stop the run. Carson Palmer will slice up the Browns not so electric pass defense. How do the Browns stand any chance of taking down an opponent like this with such an ineffective defense? Part of the problem is the Browns are struggling to adapt to the new playbook.
If the Browns defense proves everyone wrong and puts more muscle behind their tackles, they will not only win this game but win several games. If the defense can improve to being average as opposed to one of the worst in the NFL, the Browns will go from avoiding the basement to a playoff contender. The defensive play which looked like a nightmare through 7 games is holding the Browns from the playoff hunt.
The best chance the Browns have of winning is to showcase their red zone talents. Although the offense looked abysmal against the Rams, the Browns offensive players can collect themselves and score at will. The Browns presented challenges in their wins against Tennessee and Baltimore. Even Denver, San Diego and Oakland had a hard time shutting down the pass offense that Cleveland seems to utilize effectively.
How can the Browns go back to being that electrifying offense? A few changes such as using Duke Johnson Jr. more often in the short passing game and giving Robert Turbin more rush attempts could throw the Cardinals defense off balance. The Browns must also continue using tight end Gary Barnidge and wide receiver Travis Benjamin to decimate Arizona’s pass defense. One additional change that should be helpful is using Andrew Hawkins more often on short and intermediate passes. The best thing Hawkins brings to table is YAC (yards after the catch).
The biggest problem the Brown have is lack of discipline. The offensive line and defense rack up too many penalties. The tackling continues to be sloppy. This team needs to be more aggressive with their tackling, which means more willingness to deliver big hits. The defense must show improvement in their ability to take down ball carriers.
Although the Browns sometimes play better against top opponents, this will be an ugly game.
Arizona Cardinals 38 Cleveland Browns 14