Week 1 is finally here. It has been a long wait that has been made even longer after the especially rough summer in Cleveland. Both personnel and on-field losses have been weighing down the city. It is, however, finally time for the Browns season to begin, and optimism is quite high. While the team faces a rough schedule, many believe they have taken several steps in the right direction and could help the city forget the “Decision” and give fans something exciting to watch as the Indians are stuck in another boring losing season. None the less, here are things I have identified as keys to the Brownies kicking off the year 1-0. Are you ready for some football!?!?!?
– Pound the football
This should be the Browns goal all year long. After how the 2009 season ended everyone knows the running game is the Browns’ offensive strength, and teams will be paying extra attention to Jerome Harrison. While the season ending injury to Monterrio Hardesty is a big blow, it will not affect the Browns’ ability to run the ball that much. Regardless, the key to success for Cleveland is a successful run game. The Buccaneers have a solid defense, not bad but not great either. Look for the Browns to run early and often since they do not know how well the receiving corps will perform with new QB Jake Delhomme. Expect the Browns to mix in Peyton Hillis and possibly James Davis to keep Harrison fresh and keep the Buccaneers guessing.
– Turnover Battle
The ever-important turnover ratio. The Delhomme led offense looked sharp and relatively turn-over free in the pre-season. Hopefully this continues. This is always a necessity to winning football games. on the flipside, the new starting tandem at corner back will have to shut down the Bucs receivers and possibly come away with an interception or two. Tampa QB Josh Freeman is good, but very prone to poor judgement. Which leads us to a major necessity…
– Pressure the QB
The Browns failed miserably at this in the pre-season, which was a big let down after how well they did it at the end of last season. When playing a younger, mistake prone QB, pressure is always the key to un-ravelling him. It makes the QB force passes and makes the lives easier of the Defensive Backs. Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown are good, but they need help. The Browns front-7, regardless of who is in, needs to get at Freeman and knock him on his butt early and often. Let’s just hope they are moving past the issues they had with getting to the QB in the pre-season. Hopefully Shaun Rogers will be able to play this weekend after returning to practice today, he will be a huge boost for the front-7 and clog up blockers to allow the ends and linebackers into the backfield.
– Get Josh Cribbs Involved
I don’t want to say that the Browns can’t score through other people, and can’t win without him being the focal point of the offense. He is undoubtedly the best offensive playmaker on the Browns roster, so to try and get things going, they should give him the ball as early and often as possible. They need to start with Cribbs and let him open things up for the offense. Cribbs might not run the team through the flash or whatever they are calling it now, but if Delhomme finds him early on short crossing routes and slants, he can take some extra attention and free up Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi to get open on deeper routes. Cribbs has the best ability to make people miss, better than Harrison, so giving him the ball in space is key to the Browns offense moving when they are not running the football. Cribbs is obviously also the key to the special teams, he starts the Browns off every drive. What he does need, and typically gets, is good blocking from the other special teamers.
– Special Teams
Largely because the presence of Josh Cribbs. But it is also key to setting the tone for the defense and offense all day. All 3 teams need to be firing on all cylinders. The Special Teams unit stuffing kickoff and punt return attempts short puts the opposing offense against the wall and is key to the Browns playing well.