Five Keys for the Browns – vs. the Bears
It’s the least favorite NFL game for about ninety-nine percent of the population (except for those players fighting for jobs), but the Browns are looking forward to their preseason finale with the Bears. There were some improvements in preseason game three, mainly scoring, but the defense was far from great in that contest. Hopefully the Browns can look better during the portion starters play, but let’s review five musts for the home team…
#1 – Get Manziel’s Swagger Back
The backup signal caller found pay dirt after running one into the end zone last week, Thursday’s game should be about continuing that routine. I want to see him be a part of two touchdown drives – preferably passing ones. I understand it will be versus reserves and some guys who may not make the final roster, but that makes it even more imperative he excels. Manziel said a few weeks ago he wasn’t ready to play in the regular season opener. Hopefully he would have a different answer after the Bears’ game, even though he’s the backup.
#2 – Win the First Quarter
The Browns are 0 – 3 and are really looking putrid so far in the exhibition. I want to see them come out and dominate from the get go. This has been something foreign to the club, who is accustomed to falling behind after making mistakes. Once the starters leave the contest, it will be up to the reserves to maintain this lead. If the first key occurs, then fans can have a bit of faith in confidence going forward.
#3 – Make the Right Decision on the Final Fifty-Three
A couple guys were released from the 2013 squad and likely should not have been. One who comes to mind is David Nelson, who burned the Browns for a pair of touchdowns as a member of the Jets last December. I trust Ray Farmer and his personnel decisions though. The general manager will not get them all right, but some of the guys on the fringe could end up being difference makers. As of now, no one knows which those athletes are.
#4 – Continue to Get Rookies Up to Speed
Joel Bitonio, Terrance West, and Chris Kirksey appear to be the three rookies ahead of the learning curve. I’d like them to play at least with the first team (about the first quarter) and maintain their understanding of the intricacies of the NFL. However, should Manziel, Justin Gilbert, and Pierre Desir (assuming he is healthy) play two quarters – I would not be upset. The cornerbacks need repetitions and practice can only help you so much. Desir has been hampered much of training camp, now would be an excellent time to return if he wants to contribute with the defense. Taylor Gabriel is also a guy who should get some time at wide out. Is he something special? Can he be a Josh Cribbs or Victor Cruz? Those are lofty goals, but I feel he deserves a shot.
#5 – Maintain Health
This is the “knock on wood” key, especially after watching the Sam Bradford injury unfold. This contest is not important for starters and even some reserves, but not giving maximum effort can lead to injuries. I would rather the coaching staff err in the side of playing younger, unproven guys than veterans on Thursday. The team’s health is solid so far – I want that to continue.
Conclusion: The Browns are due for a good showing, whether it’s by the starters or third-stringers. Hopefully the team can put it together and head into the regular season on a positive note. While not imperative, fans just want to have hope and currently that is a department that is lacking.