Five Keys for Trouncing the Texans
The Browns head home and try to avoid a huge hangover after their complete team performance in Cincinnati. Following their drubbing of the Steelers, the Browns played down to the Jaguars en route to their only defeat in a month. For them to avoid this repeat type of performance, they must make sure they check a few things off their must-do list. Here are some of them…
#1 – Force Ryan Mallett’s Hand
The opponent has turned away from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and is handing over the reins of the offense to another former Patriots’ quarterback. It will be the first start for the signal caller, and Jim O’Neil and Mike Pettine must influence him into bad decisions. With a secondary that features interception mavens like Tashaun Gipson and Buster Skrine, the Browns’ can turn wrong decisions into points for the Browns.
#2 – Keep the Offensive Weapons Healthy
Jordan Cameron and Andrew Hawkins will likely be ready to go for this contest – health-wise. The Browns need their full stable of receiving options, as they are not going to run the ball fifty-two times each game (as they did in Cincinnati). Additionally, this is the final contest where Josh Gordon is ineligible to play this season. Should the Browns’ offensive options finish this contest in full health, the ways to move the ball (going forward) will expand exponentially. That will help the already efficient unit.
#3 – Maintain the Line’s Cohesion
Last contest was a monumental building block for the offensive line – outside of a play or two the group dominated the line of scrimmage. The Browns must continue to make sure Thomas, Greco, McDonald, Bitonio, and Schwartz get a consistent push upfront and fill any voids if one guy fails to excel. I understand J.J. Watt is arguably the best defensive line in the world, but if they can corral him a majority of the game – then look for the Browns to have a lead.
#4 – And Mingo was His Name-O
It is more than time for the second-year linebacker from LSU to step up and act likes a top ten draft selection. Barkevious has underperformed greatly this campaign, and he needs to prove he can rush the passer, set the edge on running plays, and most importantly put fear into Ryan Mallet’s eyes. Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger and playing well; if Mingo joins this category – expect the Browns’ defense to be one of the best in the league. That’s still a ways off though.
#5 – Win the Field Position Battle
I firmly believe that Mallett will not be able to move the ball down the field on the Browns’ defense on Sunday. Could he do it on a forty-yard drive? Perhaps, but the home team must make sure that is not a possibility. In addition to punt coverage, they got to figure out the punt returner situation (this isn’t the first time I’ve typed this concern either). It seems really simple and straightforward, but the Browns can take hold of this contest with better field position.
Conclusion: I do not see a let down for the Browns after their “mini” bye week. Granted, the Texans feature tremendous athletes on both sides of the ball – but I’ll take my chances with red-hot Brian Hoyer. Look for the Dawg Pound to make it very difficult on the Texans’ offense.