Friday, September 28, 2007

Browns/Ravens Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons

So the hated Baltimore Ravens come to town Sunday and I don’t think anyone in Northeast Ohio knows what to expect. Which Derek Anderson will show up? Will Kellen Winslow play? How many times will Eric Wright get okie-doked? Can anyone on the defense make a tackle? Many questions exist and the Browns do have some things going for them but others… not so much.

Of all the teams in the AFC North, the Browns match-up best with the Ravens. The Ravens do not run a complex down the field passing attack like the Bengals of Steelers. They have more of a possession type passing game with the focus on Todd Heap and Derrick Mason underneath. Steve McNair and Kyle Boller are no where near Carson Palmer and Big Dumb Roethlisbozo. Willis McGahee will present some problems but that is for later. All that being said, one thing everyone does know is that the aforementioned Mr. Wright will be tested early and often. On D the Ravens do run the 3-4 but they do not have as confusing a blitz package as the Steelers.

The Ravens have a young and injured O-Line. Jonathan Ogden may or may not play but is not the player he once was. I expect Wimbley and hopefully Peek and Thompson to make some plays.

The Josh Cribbs factor. This is the most exiting part of the week leading up to the game. What way will Chud use Cribbs this week? Will it be another reverse? Direct snap? Is he going to throw one this week? Statue of Liberty? Gladiator movies? Who knows? That’s the beauty of it, no one knows and the possibilities are endless. Add it the fact that he could take a kick or punt back to the house at any time and in this game that could be monumental.

Willis McGahee may not be LT, LJ, Boys II Men, ABC or BBD but he is still pretty good. Throw in the fact that the Browns are 3/3 on allowing 100 yard rushers and the math in not good.

The Ravens LBs are among the best in the biz. Joe Thomas and the HPC will be tested this week. Ray Lewis may have lost a step but he is still a leader and a force. Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott have picked up the slack after the departure of Audalius Thomas. Haloti Ngata ties up blockers like we wish Ted Washington could and let these guys run amuck.

Ed Reed owns the Browns. Don’t know why but he just makes plays against them. And with DA being DA expect Mr. Reed to be around the ball a lot.

Winslow is hurt. This is not huge for single WR set as Steve Heiden is more than capable but it hurts if you want to split out Kellen wide as a 3rd WR and use Heiden as the TE. If he can’t go that put Tim Carter or Travis Wilson on the spot and that is not a good proposition. Cribbs will get some work are 3rd WR but they don’t; want to tire him out and lose his explosiveness on Special Teams.

The Browns have a shot and despite the problems on defense I expect it to be a low scoring game. If they can stay in the game early and ride a vengeful Jamal Lewis for 25+ carries, they may be able to pull this one out. If they get down early and have to throw every down, look out. No one expects them to win after losing to Oakland but then again no one expected them to win after being trounced by Pittsburgh.

On a side note I would like to wish ill will on Matt Stover. Why? Because I am tired of hearing the references that he is the “last remaining member of the original Cleveland Browns.” It’s been over 10 years. Let it go, Dick Enberg, who says it before every Stover FG attempt. I don’t think Cleveland cares anymore about Matt Stover we just care about beating Baltimore.

As a good friend once said, “Falcons are birds that are notorious for being late.” To which I replied, “Ravens are birds that are notorious for being…” Well, let’s just say, open to non-standard sexual practices.

Go Browns!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Same Ol' Situation

"It's the same ol', same ol' situation
It's the same ol', same ol' ball and chain
Just like a punch in the teeth
Or a swan dive to the street
No, no, no
No, no, no
If it wasn't for bad luck
I'd have no luck at all"
-- Motley Crue "Same Ol' Situation"

Ah... the Crue... Vince, Nikki, Mick and Tommy, good times. Not so much for the Browns in Oakland, losing on a blocked field goal at the gun, 26-24.

Let's start from the end. Anyone who thinks the block is Phil Dawson's fault is an idiot. Nat Dorsey and Seth McKinney got OWNED on the left side of the line and the kick had no chance. Phil had a bad year in 2006, yes. But he is the most accurate kicker in Browns history and was 8 for 8 on game winning kicks until that block. The Browns have much more serious problems that kicker. And, just for reference, we all know how well Derrick Frost kicked when we showed Chris Gardocki the door. Phil is like any other veteran kicker he gets rusty if he doesn't get used. The Browns scored the least amount of points in the NFL in 2006, do the math.

Derek Anderson did a great job in the 2 minutes drill. But looked awful in the first half. (Switching to my Dennis Green voice.) DEREK ANDERSON IS WHO I THOUGHT HE WAS! Here is what I wrote on May 28, 2007...

"DA seems to have all the "tools" to be an effective NFL quarterback. Whether or not he can refine those tools into being an effective NFL quarterback is yet to be seen. He seemed to thrive in the back-up QB role by single handily winning the Kansas City game and being the only man to show up for the Thursday night game in Pittspuke. Needs to work the mental side of quarterbacking to succeed long term. I see him being the prototypical back-up QB who can come into the game in relief or make a spot start and thrive but I think his tendencies make him too predictable to be the long term starter."

Watching Derek Anderson QB is like watching Joe Borowski close. It is a roller coaster of emotions and a lot of the time you are going to end up sick. You just have to deal with it. If anything, we will all get to see Brady Quinn after the bye week, if not sooner, and we should feel confident that we have a back-up QB who is serviceable. It could be worse, we could have Doug Pederson or Spurgeon Wynn plays while we wait for Tim Couch. Until The Mighty Quinn debuts just get on the ride, take a deep breath, close your eyes and hope for the best.

I do like the way Rob Chudzinski is calling the game. He gets the ball to the play makers. He gets everyone involved. He is aggressive. He doesn't sit back, he attacks. The question is how DA operates the offense. Versus Cincinnati, playing ahead, you can run Jamal Lewis, set up play action and keep the opposition off balance. Versus Oakland, DA plays stupid, you are down 16-0 and have to play catch up. You can not run effectively and the D can rear back and attack you. Kudos to DA for getting them out of that hole but he was the main reason they dug one in the first place. In the NFL the quarterback has to be as much intellectual and as athletic (see Manning, Peyton and Brady, Tom) because of the complex schemes the defenses run. This is not DA's strong suit, sorry big guy. That being said I am excited to see Quinn run this offense. Very excited. It will tell us a lot about the future of this franchise.

But all of this is rendered irrelevant when your D is giving up 35 points a game. 34 + 45 + 26 = 105. 105 / 3 = 35. Sickening. The D line if awful. Just awful. They take up space but not in the gaps that a 3-4 demands you occupy to free the linebackers. Romeo has announced there will be more rotation in the DL this week. I don't know how to feel about that. That means the back-ups will get more PT, but they ARE back-ups. Scary. Speaking of LBs, they have not looked good other than Kam Wimbley. They have regressed to the tackle five yards down the field. Both Davis and Jackson look slow. Maybe it's time to get a little more PT for Williams and Thompson. But then again they ARE back-ups. Scary. I was really thinking the LB core would be a strength. So far in 2007, not so much. The secondary is banged up. Bodden isn't healthy again. Holly was back after missing a game with a concussion. Eric Wright is a rookie. He is going to get beat a lot. Get used to it. It will make him a better player down the road. Part of the blame has to rest on the safeties. Brian Russell is definitely missed. He was the leader of the secondary. Getting guys in the proper spot and coverage. Neither Jones nor Pool have been able to do that and it doesn't help Eric Wright out at all. The defense looks completely lost and that is not going to allow them to win many games at all.

Most maddening is the fact that the team came out flat, again, after a big win. After all the talk of not having a letdown after the Cincy game that's exactly what happened. And they players said their underestimated the Raiders. WTF?!? That falls squarely on Romeo, Phil and the entire coaching staff. Embarrassing. I don't know what to say. They knew what was coming and still could not avoid it. Because of it, they still haven't won 2 in a row since 2003. Disgusting. They lost to an Oakland team that couldn't throw a forward pass to save their life and despite all their offensive miscues in the first half had a chance to win the game. It's encouraging that they fought back and put themselves in a position to win that game. It's sad how they put themselves in that position in the first place. Same ol' situation since 2003.

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's a Celebration, Bitches!

The City of Cleveland, and the late Rick James, couldn't be prouder.

After a season of ups and downs, the Indians secured their first AL Central crown, and trip to the MLB playoffs, since 2001 with a 6-2 victory of the Oakland A's Sunday. They did it the same way they have been doing it all season, with a dominant starting pitching, a collection of unspectacular but well sequenced hitting and a lights out performance from the bullpen.

Despite the criticism they have endured the Dolans, Mark Shapiro and Uncle Eric Wedge deserve credit for making things work throughout the year with the team they have assembled. They may not have shelled out the big dollars for a high priced free agent, but spent wisely on Joe Borowski, netted a subtle but key player at the trade deadline in Kenny Lofton and saw the large amount of money they pump in the the farm system pay off in the likes of Fausto Carmona, Franklin Gutierrez and Asdrubal Cabrera.

It may not have been easy but the Indians are final where all of Cleveland wants them to be, the playoffs. As the Plain Dealer pointed out "The Indians worked their way through 150 bottles of champagne and 40 cases of beer in drenching each other to celebrate their first division title since 2001." Well done, gentlemen, well done. But the journey is not over, as one fictitious Cleveland Indian once said...

"Well, I guess there's only one thing left to do..."
"What's that?"

"Win the whole, fucking thing."