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Bernie Kosar, Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack, mud brown uniforms, the dog pound…these are the things that come to mind when thinking about the Cleveland Browns. Those old teams, tormented by John Elway, were among my favorite non-Seahawk teams to follow. Everything was blue collar, from their field to their fans to their playing style. Fast forward a few decades, and much has changed. Art Modell is still an asshole, but the Browns are a shell of their former selves. Year after year of bad football has sapped the soul from the once-proud franchise. Mike Holmgren was brought in to right the ship a couple years ago. The results have been uneven thus far. First-round picks CB Joe Haden and DT Phil Taylor look to be great additions. Colt McCoy was a good pick in the 3rd round. Even if he never becomes a great quarterback, he has already outperformed his draft level. The Browns also fleeced the Falcons out of five picks, including two 1st and two 4th round picks, by trading their first-round pick where the Falcons selected Julio Jones. The talent looks to be improving, but the results are not.
Here are a few things I noticed when scouting the Browns:
– Despite being tied for 7th in the NFL in pass attempts, the Browns are dead-last with a dismal 5.5 yards-per-attempt. McCoy’s performance against the Raiders was indicative of his season thus far. He threw a whopping 45 times, completed only 21 for 215 yards and an average of 4.8 YPA.
– McCoy is not turning the ball over as much. He has a “game-manager-esque” 8:3 touchdown:interception ratio. That’s a solid improvement from the 6 TD:9 INT performance from 2010.
– The Browns wide receivers are horrible. None of them should scare any defensive coordinator. Josh Cribbs can be dangerous when he gets the ball, but he’s not a great at creating separation. At 6’1″, 215 lbs, Cribbs is an ideal match-up for the Seahawks big press corners. Cribbs is not Hakeem Nicks, let alone Roddy White or Larry Fitzgerald. The Seahawks corners have given those players fits in recent weeks, and Cribbs should be the latest. Greg Little is a rookie 2nd round pick, who leads the team with 20 receptions. He is 6’2″, 220 lbs, and is exactly the type of player the Seahawks corners want to play against.
– Ben Watson is a nice safety valve for McCoy, but will have trouble matching up with Kam Chancellor.
– Peyton Hillis was this team’s engine last season, both running and receiving. He does not look like the same player, and is possibly out with an injury. Montario Hardesty is a league-average back. In some ways, he matches up better with the Seahawks than Hillis since Hardesty will test the edges more where Hillis would just try to run up the gut.
– If the Browns can run the ball at all, it will be because of some quality lineman like T Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack. The line is decent, and held up pretty well against a very good Raiders defensive line, giving up only two sacks. Head Coach Pat Shurmur appears to be trying to gain running yards via conservative passes.
– The defense is almost faceless. Haden and Taylor are good players, but few other guys seem to stand out. They rank 27th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, but are 10th in yards-per-carry at 3.9. That trend continued as they yielded 151 yards to the Raiders, but at a 3.8 YPC clip. They appeared more like a team giving up a bunch of rushing yards than a team limiting that yardage per carry. In other words, this run defense looks suspect.
– Their bad run defense makes their pass defense look better than it is. The Browns are 4th in the NFL in passing yards allowed/game, but teams have attempted the 2nd fewest passes in the league against them. Quarterbacks have a 89.8 rating against the Browns, which includes Matt Henne, Andy Dalton, Kerry Collins, and a lot of Kyle Boller. The Seahawks have yielded a passer rating of 91.8, but that has come against Alex Smith (I know, but he is a Top 10 passer), Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, and Eli Manning.
This is the first game all season that the Seahawks should win. Seattle is the more talented team, and has match-ups all over the field that favor them. Whether they can translate that into a win is something nobody will know until Sunday.