After six games, the Cleveland Browns are in second place and playing .500 football. For those of you who had preseason expectations of 8-8, you’re right on pace. Does it feel as good as it sounded in preseason? No. Why? Because once the games start being played, no one wants to sit there and watch mediocre football, even if it does show improvement. There’s no real victory in that: “We suck, but not as bad as we used to suck.” But do the Browns suck?
Don’t say Brandon Weeden by name. We’ll leave the individuals alone for a day and just focus on the team. We don’t need to point out their roster deficiencies; the roster is what the roster will be for the remainder of the season, barring a major injury. Let’s look at what they’ve got. Let’s see what they’ve done. Let’s see if they do suck.
The Browns’ strength is their defense. It’s not perfect, as we saw Sunday when the Detroit Lions picked them apart in the second half. But they’re still a good squad and it’s hard to say the offense’s terrible performance didn’t aid that defensive collapse. Before the Browns lost any hope for the season because of a cleat – one single lousy cleat – the defense showed that it could go the distance when the offense was doing something unfamiliar to last week’s squad, namely making scoring drives and first downs.
Run defense is typically strong. They’ve improved the coverage by sending every defensive player not named Joe Haden after the remaining receivers. This is great for coverage but hurts two other areas of the team: The pass rush and short pass coverage. So how does this team overcome this in a passing league? You hope your team has its own passing game and can keep up. There’s just one problem (I told you not to say his name!). Cleveland doesn’t have much of one.
The Browns can’t run, but not many can these days. Still they need a little more than they’ve done, though the team is showing some improvement in that area. No, you know where I’m going with this. It’s all about the passing game. The Browns seem to have a good first half passing game. Okay, maybe not good, but at least decent. Then comes halftime and not so much. Regardless of who the quarterback is, the Browns seem to have problems moving the ball in the third quarter and for much of the fourth. One can be lazy and just assume that teams are making adjustments and the Browns need time to counter them, but I don’t know if I believe that.
Look, if you wanted to make that accusation when Pat Shurmur was the head coach, how could anyone not listen to it? But he’s with the Philadelphia Eagles. I have to think that Norv Turner hasn’t forgotten how to counter adjustments after 624 years in the NFL. To me it’s about the personnel. Yes, football is a chess match, but sometimes you have to impose your will on the other team. Anyone think Peyton Manning has an issue with second half adjustments? No, he takes the snap, scans the field, and finds an open receiver. The Browns don’t have those guys, so the second-half struggles will probably continue all year.
And what about the rest of the year? I’m not looking at the schedule but just talking in a general sense. The Browns will drop some they should win, win some they should drop, so what’s the point of saying “they’ll beat Team A and then lose to Team B”? The Browns have 10 games remaining. How many of those should they be able to take? Four? That means that the team finishes with a 7-9 record, which would suck, but not as bad as they used to suck. That, my friends, is all you’ll be getting for the 2013 season.