The Fast Lane: On Any Given Sunday

What's going on with the Browns? Why can't this team put it together? Lane deliberates on those questions and more in this edition of the Fast Lane.

Are the Browns everything we thought they were?

That question certainly isn’t meant in a positive way.

My football game-day week from Sunday through Tuesday generally consists of watching the game live, watching again, and taking in the All-22, talking to a handful of players and team confidants and working through the usual mess.

Only, the mess remains the same.

There are so many ways to say the Cleveland Browns are not an inspired football. There are only so many adjectives to describe the levels of inconsistency and inadequacy this team portrays.

When watching this team, the story remains the same — ineptness reigns, coach-speak bellows to closing ears of a cultivating culture which has amassed 10 losses in the past 12 games.

Void of playmakers, an inability to consistently execute the fundamentals, player utilization and simply questioning the overall talent within the roster are come to mind when sifting through this Cleveland Browns team.

On the defensive side of the ball they’ll play solid, fundamental football, they will tease you with execution (not yourself, mind you), only to seize in the moment, failing to make the most common of play — such as tackling a ball carrier, an art taught at the earliest level of playing football as a child. In an era when shoulder blocking a ball-carrier is the norm, not the exception, the Browns whiff aimlessly.

Billed as a physical team that will run the football — this Browns team has a serious problem. They can’t run the ball, the horses you ride to strip the will from the opposition are not in place - not in the trenches and certainly not on the coaching staff.

The highly touted Cleveland offensive line has been a huge disappointment. Much as playing run defense is part attitude and desire, the Browns offensive linemen are not physical in any regard. While not built to be a man-blocking, punch your opponent in the mouth type of group, these Browns show little fire off the snap and have gained the reputation of being soft — on film it’s difficult to disagree with the sentiment.

This isn’t to point toward all the issue being due to the Browns offensive line, but the reality is this group plays on their heels. While the game evolves, one particular part of the game doesn’t change — you have to be able to play in the trenches and the Browns have been a monumental failure in this regard.

I could sit and write 5,000 words on what occurred during a game, breaking down plays, describing what should or could have happened for them to be successful. In Cleveland there is no cohesion, the chemistry of a unit, a position working in unison is muddled. The act of running the football, an ages old art couldn’t be more lost than it is in Cleveland.

Why is this so? How could running the football, blocking for the QB be such a dire issue for an offensive line consisting of highly drafted personnel?

We see a group of technicians along the Browns offensive line, talent better suited to be zone-blockers. In Cleveland we see the Browns play a combo-line scheme, not simply man-blockers, not solely zone-blockers.

Football hasn’t changed in one regard — it’s still a physical game and you must win individual battles if you expect to win the war.

And getting into the ass of the opposition is what good teams do.

The next Mike Pettine press conference when the head coach doesn’t discuss the numerous penalties, the various mental errors his team commits, the injuries and what they could have done better — will be the first.

- On CB Joe Haden: Haden's broken finger is feeling much better and he has been cleared from the concussion protocol system, the CB is excited and ready to go on Sunday against the Cardinals.

- On OL Cam Erving: Rookie offensive lineman Cameron Erving has taken some reps with the first team offense in drills -- despite gaining reps, Erving is not expected to see/take a starting role at this time.

- On departed LB Hayes Pullard: When the Jacksonville Jaguars sought and inked LB Hayes Pullard to their active roster and off the Browns practice squad -- the Browns had hoped Pullard would stay in Cleveland with a POTENTIAL opportunity to join the active roster as the season progressed. Pullard and rightfully so, inked the deal with the Jaguars.

- On QB Johnny Manziel: The league has not officially cleared Johnny Manziel in their investigation of a potential violation of the personal conduct policy, but as we have previously noted -- we have been told the league has not gained additional/sufficient information which would warrant a suspension for the second-year QB.

- On LB Barkevious Mingo: Mingo's reps have increased in practice this week, though rookie Nate Orchard is gaining the majority.

- On S Tashaun Gipson: Tashaun Gipson has favored his ankle at times during practice drills on Wednesday and Thursday and is 'questionable' for Sunday -- though the defensive back fully believes he will be on the field.

- On the running backs: RB Robert Turbin has gained significant reps in practice sessions, with Duke Johnson's reps remaining the same, and a drop-off for Isaiah Crowell. The Browns have also utilized two back sets, with Johnson sharing the field with Turbin and Crowell.

- On WR Dwayne Bowe: With Andrew Hawkins in the league concussion protocol (will be evaluated on Thursday), we are told Dwayne Bowe will gain an increased number of practice reps and his status will be determined.

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