Brownie’s BACK! The Cleveland version of the Battle of Ohio takes place today. Both teams are coming off of wins in the final minute last week, and a win could pull the Browns to .500, a position that looked impossible as little as two weeks ago. Here are a few keys that I’m going to be looking for (in between Tribe commercials, of course).
How the Browns handle the Bengals pair of running backs
I’m way more concerned about Giovani Bernard than I am Benjarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis isn’t explosive (he’s had under 30 yards rushing in 2 of 3 games), but he’s good getting those short yardage pick-ups. Bernard could really hurt the Browns out in space in the screen game or running sweeps and such. Bernard had 14 touches for 99 total yards and 1 touchdown last week vs. Green Bay, so he scares me way more today. The Browns’ rush defense has been the strength of this team thus far, and it will need to answer the bell once again.
Can the Browns continue to air it out and exploit a banged up Bengals defensive backfield?
Three Bengals DBs are listed as doubtful for this afternoon’s game (Dre Kirkpatrick, Reggie Nelson, and Leon Hall). Can the Browns stretch the field and find Gordon, Benjamin, and Cameron on deep routes? Can Bess and Little effectively work the underneath and mid-range passing game? It’s a lot to ask from Brian Hoyer against this very good Bengals defense, but it’s what has to happen to get the W this afternoon.
Will the “committee of running backs” combine for at least 75 yards rushing?
It’d be nice to see someone between Chris Ogbonnaya, Willis McGahee, or Bobby Rainey break a few runs and give the Browns offense some balance. Otherwise, it puts just too much pressure on Hoyer to execute and the blitzes will start coming (and they won’t stop comin’). McGahee has said he will do better this week. I expect him to do so. Also, they can’t forget about Ogbonnaya catching screens and dumpoffs out of the backfield. It’s worked before, and it could work again.
Here’s some links to wet your whistle ahead of kickoff from this past week at WFNY:
Rick – Thomas sets bar with 100th consecutive start
Rick – Browns Film Room Three: Pressure!
Scott – On Josh Gordon’s Numbers and Joe Banner’s Word
Kirk – Mixed emotions after a Browns’ win