Browns-Rams Postgame Notes

Head coach Mike Pettine can continue to challenge Brian Hoyer and the offense to step up, but that hasn't worked so well so far.

· The Browns passing game remains out of rhythm. Competition between quarterbacks that prevents overall cohesion is the line publicly touted. Except other teams have quarterback competitions, too, that don’t dissolve into a nonfunctional offense.

· A defense that smothers the offense every time they take the field in practice may simply be a problem. Defenses that apply pressure to help keep a quarterback from getting into rhythm on game day can be just as troublesome if they do the same to their own teammates and hang onto the orange jersey every day.

· Pettine can continue to challenge Hoyer and the offense to step up, but that hasn't worked so well so far. Pettine should be huddling with Ray Farmer and other staff connections to Baltimore who may have worked through similar problems with a strong Ravens defense when in Baltimore--- to mine for an answer in all this and how he conducts camp and a defensive unit that features high first round draft picks at corner going against undrafted free agents on the other side of the ball.

· One answer may be in giving Haden more days off to nurse his foot. If Haden is expected to take away half the field against an opposing team’s number one receiver in games that matter, what’s Haden’s effect in practice for a team lacking anyone past Josh Gordon who can successfully challenge Haden?

· The simple truth at work is the Browns lack talent at wide receiver. Miles Austin hasn't stepped up to fill the role of a number one receiver with Josh Gordon’s suspension looming. Austin doesn't look like a guy trying to prove something and has yet to show consistency or big play ability and has several missed catches on balls that have hit his hands not withstanding several balls thrown behind him.

· Hawkins and Gabriel have shown the most so far, but both are complementary pieces and neither is the kind of player that picks up yards in chunks. Beyond that is an injured Nate Burleson and a bunch of guys who show promise but otherwise aren’t looking to be significant contributors this year.

· Noise out of Berea that the Browns are considering a package for Manziel signal thoughts moving in the wrong direction amidst pieces that are otherwise lacking and a coaching staff that doesn't have answers. Two headed teams are conceived by teams ailing elsewhere. They also never work.

· The strength of the Browns is play up the middle of the defensive line as the Browns plug in a variety of players across different fronts. It’s a defensive line that can be crushing on short yardage situations and apply pressure up the middle when Armonty Bryant is lined up and slips by guards and into the backfield. Pettine is also quick to say Rubin is the best he has had at the position as Rubin occupies blockers, defends his gaps, and can apply pressure and chase after the play. All of which combines and makes for a stunning combination--- at least in one department of the field Browns-wise.

· Except the Browns lack explosive plays from the edge and fronts that jam three rushers off the blindside edge don’t appear to be working. Overall absence of pressure helped St. Louis quarterbacks play in rhythm and convert most of their third downs which is troubling. Desmond Bryant is injured and out, Jabaal Sheard doesn’t look as lean and active as he did his rookie year, and Mingo is being used in coverage. Kruger is the one guy who stands out but needs help.

· Kirksey and Gabriel may be this year’s rookie stars coming out of camp. Most heads would likely nod at the suggestion that Kirksey was a first round pick if made to a casual observer. The game is neither too fast nor too big for Kirksey. Kirksey understands the game and knows where to be and is now beginning to make athletic plays reflected in his athletic jump for an interception against the Rams. It’s the kind of play we expect from first and second round picks, and also the kind of play that jumps out when provided by a third round pick. Gabriel has been singled out by Joe Haden on the other side of the ball as looking good. Similarly, Gabriel looks comfortable on the other side of the ball, and the game also doesn’t appear too fast or too big for him.

· Justin Gilbert was a step behind and taken advantage of repeatedly on intermediate routes as he played against receivers with more ability than what the Browns can toss in his direction in practice. Gilbert also displays an aggressive athleticism and flashed as he broke up a completion in the end zone with an aggressive reach and flashed again with length and athleticism as he leaped to break up a deep ball. Gilbert has all the tools as he flashes in ways that signal success moving forward.

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