Five Keys for the Browns – vs. the Detroit Lions
The 2014 Cleveland Browns finally begin their season this Saturday night! I understand it’s an exhibition game and the outcome will not count, but that does not mean we cannot dissect their matchup with the Lions. Although many athletes will be employed throughout the meeting, let’s figure out what needs to happen for the orange and brown to be successful.
1 – Have both Signal Callers (re)acclimate to the Speed of the NFL
This obviously relates more to Johnny Manziel than Brian Hoyer (who is coming off his ACL injury). I don’t expect either to be dominant in the contest, but as long as they don’t appear to be overwhelmed, than I will be content. Of course Brandon Weeden was superb in the preseason last year, but that didn’t really turn into anything positive during the regular season.
2 – Start Separating the “Haves” from the Have Nots” at Wide Receiver
Over the past few months, there has been a valid concern around the Browns’ wide outs. Several (including media outlets) feel these athletes may not be able to shoulder the load on a consistent basis. However somebody’s got to do it, and determining viable options starts this weekend. Will anyone not named Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins impress? I’ll keep an eye out for a few guys – hopefully they can make some plays.
3 – Where’s the Pressure Coming From?
The Browns’ 2013 team did not put as much heat on opponents as fans and coaches would have liked. Mike Pettine vowed to change this; something that has excited this fan base. The only question is – who is going to assume that role? Will Barkevious Mingo be the main sack artist? How about Jabaal Sheard, can he be consistently relentless on passing downs? Will the front three make their impression? I can’t wait to find out.
4 – Solidifying the “Other Cornerback Spot”
The Justin Gilbert vs. Buster Skrine battle; someone’s going to start on the outside (opposite Joe Haden) and the other will begin as a nickel cornerback. The veteran Skrine has the early edge (due to experience in the league), but some nice plays in this contest could tilt the scales toward the favor of the rookie first-round pick.
5 – Making Sure Talk isn’t Cheap
I’ve been hearing a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the shift in attitude within the Cleveland Browns’ culture. Saturday will be the first time fans will be able to decide whether this change is actually occurring, or if it’s just something players and coaches are saying – without holding weight. I predict a stark contrast from earlier campaigns and look forward to finally seeing success.
Conclusion: While this will likely be a sloppy matchup (on both sides), I am excited to see the orange and brown once again on the gridiron. The starters should remember what it takes to compete at this level, while the reserves must prove they are not a huge downgrade from the starting units. Heck, maybe the Browns can win the barge in the latest installment of the Great Lakes Classic.