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Posted by Sep - 9 - 2011 0 Comment

Notes, thoughts and musings as the Browns season opener versus the Bengals approaches

  • On Thursday, both TE Ben Watson and LB Chris Gocong returned to practice as the team prepares for Sunday. This is obvious good news for the Browns. Here’s hoping they are in the same position a week from now when its time to get ready for the Colts.
  • Despite missing virtually all of training camp and all four preseason games, Mohamed Massaquoi was listed as the #1 WR on the depth chart for Sunday’s game, with Brian Robiskie at #2. Despite this, I suspect you’ll see a healthy amount of Greg Little in the lineup this weekend.
  • Colt McCoy becomes the 10th Opening Day starter at QB in 13 seasons. If that stat doesn’t define ineptitude, I don’t know what does. Of the other 9 starters, who is the only one to have won an opening day game? (Answer at the bottom of the page.)
  • It will be interesting to see how Josh Cribbs decides to handle returning kickoffs Sunday. He has said that he’s not going to let the rule changes change his game, but it remains to be seen what his coaches will demand of him. In the Thursday night NFL season opener, the first 3 kickoffs were touch-backs that were 8+ yards deep. New Orleans RB Darren Sproles decided to take the 4th one out, and he made to the 17 yard line, and he is a pretty solid returner in his own right. Cribbs is tough to tackle, but starting an offensive series inside your own 20 will be tougher to explain on the sidelines.
  • The Bengals will be running out a ton of rookie and young second-year players on Sunday, especially on offense. If the Browns don’t blitz from kickoff to the final gun, they are giving Cincy too much credit. Two or three years from now, this Cincinnati offense could be one of the more prolific in the leage and exciting to watch, once QB Andy Dalton develops rhythm and chemistry with the likes of fellow rookie A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley, and Jermaine Gresham. Until then, they will take their fair share of lumps, and the Browns should take ownership of several of those lumps this weekend.
  • This game will be an excellent opportunity for the Browns to see what they have in their two rookie defensive linemen versus the run. Expect to see a healthy dose of Cincy RB (and resident of the state of Ohio on occasion) Cedric Benson. For Phil Taylor to be worthy of his lofty selection, he should have running holes clogged up like Danny DeVito’s shower drain. As well, Jabaal Sheard will have ample opportunity to not only make plays against the run, but chase down Dalton. Overall, I thought the Browns starters on defense performed nicely against the opposition’s starters this preseason. And while Benson could get off with a +100 yard day, if it takes 30 carries to do it and he is most of the offensive output for the afternoon, then the Browns should come away with a win.
  • Cincy is a team that reminds me a lot of the Browns in recent sub-.500 years. There are legitimate play-makers at a few key positions on either side of the ball. Benson at RB, Gresham was making some nice plays for the Bengals last season, Leon Hall might be one of the top DBs in the division (sorry, Joe Haden), and Rey Maualuga is an athletic and rangy (if not injury-prone) force on the defensive side of the ball. But in between them on the field are either young, inexperienced players that still need to develop, or guys who just lack the kind of talent necessary to make the Bengals a serious threat to an opposing team week to week. Another year or two of drafts like the last one will help change that, though it perpetuates the youth issue. There has to be an influx of experienced talent into the Riverfront area of our state for the Bengals to claw their way out of the AFC North cellar.
  • All that said, while I don’t expect the Browns to simply have their way with the Bengals, anything less than a touchdown-sized margin of victory would mean the Browns underacheived. The starting offense looks very efficient if not potent under Colt McCoy, and the defense, looking to be healthier now than any point the preseason, should have little trouble with the Bengal offensive attack. Our prediction: Browns 27, Bengals 13.

*ANSWER: Jeff Garcia, over the Ravens 20-3 on opening day 2004.

Categories: Cleveland Browns

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