A Handful of Hope – Five Things Browns’ Fans Should Want to See
It’s week two in the preseason, and the Cleveland Browns have their final exhibition game in front of their home crowd. Mike Pettine faces his former mentor in Rex Ryan, and the rivalry is expected to continue in this contest. The opener featured both some highs and lows for the orange and brown; it’s now time for the team to clean up a few things. Let’s take a further look at what the team needs to do.
#1 – Set that Edge
Against Washington last week, the Browns surrendered seven yards per carry on attempts outside the offensive tackles. That is unacceptable, be it a playoff game, regular season contest, or even in the preseason. Danny Shelton is a force in the middle, but someone’s got to help out and funnel plays towards the middle of the field. I want to see what Armonty Bryant can do and how Xavier Cooper and Nate Orchard continue to develop. The team cannot rely solely on veterans Desmond Bryant and Randy Starks – depth is vital.
#2 – Prove that 21 is Not a Bust
Justin Gilbert’s play last game was alarming, but it pales in comparison to his awful attitude. Stating he was flawless outside of one play is egregious – every veteran knows they are not perfect (just look at Peyton Manning). He better get his head on straight and just play football. I would like to see Joe Haden limited again in this contest, giving Pierre Desir time as the starter. That would put Gilbert in a nickel or slot role; if he can hold his own, then that’s at least something to build upon.
#3 – Johnny’s Progress
I was content to see Manziel actually look like a professional quarterback last Thursday. He did not light it up, but he’s not going to go from an embarrassment to an all-Pro in one game. If he can shed his bad habits (throwing off his back foot, leaving the pocket too early); that will give me faith about the quarterback’s future. Hey, Manziel scored his first NFL touchdown last year against the Bills – let’s hope his first passing touchdown in 2015 comes versus this roster.
#4 – Ground and Pound
Now I am not expecting to see 250 rushing yards by the Browns, but they got to show me something. I know the Bills have a great defense, but Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West have got to get it going. Simply a couple of eight to ten yard carries would pacify me at this point; but that appears to be a tall order by this bunch. I prefer the running back room for the Browns not contain Ray Rice – therefore, they have to give Ray Farmer a reason to not sign the free agent.
#5 – Get Clarity on the Kicking Game
This seems as an unimportant area for the team, but Billy Cundiff kicked two game winners for the team last season. Travis Coon had a nice forty-seven yarder against Washington; I want to see whether Carey Spear can hit on his attempts as well. Much like many open positions, I want the best guy to play – hopefully he stands out on Thursday.