There's simply too much parity in the NFL to get too high or too low off of any one individual win or loss. Despite the horrifying rash of injuries and woeful display of offense we were forced to endure this past weekend, I'm not ready to press the panic button. I've simply seen too many strange things happen in this league over the last six years, and also remember everyone counting out the 2002 Browns, who ultimately made the playoffs at 9-7, after they lost Jamir Miller in the pre-season.
Butch Davis has mentioned on numerous occasions that this is his deepest team since he's been here and that the last ten to fifteen players that made this team are much more talented than in years past. Quite frankly, I agree with him. We will soon see how true that is. Also, color me very unimpressed by the rest of the division. We are in first place, have a big division win over the Ravens under our belt, and our division rivals also suffered some key injuries this week. The Ravens pass game deteriorated even further with the loss of Todd Heap, and the Bengals and Steelers are starting first year quarterbacks. Lastly, we have a very winnable pair of games ahead of us at the Giants and at home versus the Redskins.
Is this team good enough, most notably in the trenches, to win the Super Bowl
this year? Probably not. Can I see why many fans are in full panic mode given
the injuries, Garcia's performance, and the continued sad state of the offensive
line? Of course I can. Am I ready to give up on a season I've been thirsting
for since about a month before the NFL Draft? Hell no.
ASSESSING THE CARNAGE
Let's start with Winslow. This is not good news for an offense desperately in search of reliable options and a true identity. It will make it tougher to run the ball on opponents with this threat in the pass game neutralized. Aaron Shea will be called on to elevate his game, and Steve Heiden could return to the practice field as well this week. Chad Mustard could be re-added, and the team could take a look at Byron Chamberlain or Jed Weaver, the pair of tight ends recently released by the Broncos. Darnell Sanders has signed with the Falcons since he was released by the Browns in their final roster purge. Former Lion and Jets tight end Michael Ricks is also a possibility. The team will wait to further assess Winslow's injury before placing him on the IR and losing him for the remainder of the season.
Courtney Brown was also lost for the season, and this is old news to Browns fans that have watched Courtney miss nineteen games over the past three years due to various injuries. CB has likely played his last game for this franchise. Ebenezer Ekuban, who was also banged up in the Dallas game, will assumed Courtney's starting role, and Corey Jackson will no longer be left inactive on game days.
Gerard Warren will miss an additional 2-4 weeks due to the strained pectoral that has been plaguing him these past two weeks. Michael Myers and Alvin McKinley will continue to combine to fill Gerard's shoes, and it's likely that rookie Amon Gordon will be activated on Sundays until Warren returns.
Daylon McCutcheon may or may not miss time with a fractured finger. If sidelined, Leigh Bodden would step into his starting role, Chris Crocker would remain as the nickel man, and Michael Lehan and Michael Jameson would share time as the 6th defensive back in dime sets.
And lastly, on the offensive line, Joaquin Gonzalez will get the nod at right
tackle until Ryan Tucker is healthy enough to return to the lineup. If
Zukauskas is unable to go, we will see Enoch DeMar get the call at left guard.
Melvin Fowler and Kirk Chambers are both likely to be activated this weekend to
provide depth to this embattled unit.
'04 DRAFT REVISITED
Kellen Winslow II, Sean Jones, Luke McCown, Amon Gordon, Kirk Chambers, Adimchinobe Echemnadu. Nary an impact from any of our selections this season so far. Winslow, Jones, and Echemandu may not see any action the rest of this year due to injuries.
Anyone that was at the Bernie's Insiders Draft Day Bonanza remembers my
displeasure with the Browns decision to deal away a second round pick to move up
one spot in the first round. My opposition to that move was based on my belief
that the Lions wanted Roy Williams the entire time, and also the fact that this
team had too many holes to be dealing away second round selections. Even had
the Lions taken Winslow, the Browns could have used those picks on Roy Williams
and Justin Smiley, who excelled in his first game this past weekend at offensive
guard for the 49ers.
LUKE IS NO JEDI YET
Like clockwork, the sports talk radio shows were littered with fans pining for Luke McCown to be handed the reigns at quarterback for this team earlier this week. I'm as bullish on Luke's future as most fans are, but this is an asinine plea. For at least the next two seasons, no one is going to give this team a better chance to win than Garcia, and let's not overreact to one very poor game from our new signal caller.
Jeff Garcia is a good quarterback who had one very poor game. He will be fine. It would be a sad state of affairs in my view to see Garcia start getting booed at home after starting games with a couple of incomplete passes. The guy has a track record of success in this league and pours his heart out on the field for this team. This last game was very out of character for him, and if history is any indication, he will bounce back strong.
I know this is a very emotional town, that overreacts to all happenings (good
or bad) with this football team … but I urge the fans to give Garcia a mulligan
here. He is not what's wrong with this offense right now.
Butch Davis handled three situations late in the game differently than I would have.
Firstly, I would have called for a review of the pass to Dennis Northcutt late in the game that was called a bobble as he ran out of bounds. To me, the replays clearly showed that Northcutt caught the pass, clearly had two feet down, and was then stripped of the ball. I understand that time outs are precious, but if overturned, we would have had third down and about one yard. We could have run the ball and would have had a new set of downs as opposed to having to punt after being unable to convert on the third and ten play that followed the Northcutt bobble.
Secondly, and just after the aforementioned punt, I would have waited to expend my final timeout until after the two minute warning as opposed to using it at the 2:04 mark. By using the timeout there, we basically allowed the Cowboys a "free pass" on 3rd and long, as they knew the clock would stop after the play regardless of what the outcome was. Had we let the clock run down to the two-minute warning, the Cowboys would have seriously had to consider running the ball, and forcing us to use our final timeout. Instead, Vinnie used that "free pass" at the 2:04 mark to connect with Terry Glenn downfield, which was the virtual deathblow to the Browns hopes. It's very possible the Cowboys could have chosen to do the same thing had we let the clock run down to the two minute warning, but in my opinion, you have to at least make them think about running the ball there.
And lastly, why on earth did we not immediately take that safety at the end
of the game? Garcia should have been instructed to immediately take a knee in
the end zone. We weren't going to advance the ball ninety nine yards in sixteen
seconds, and taking the immediate safety would have given us fifteen seconds
left on the clock for the onside as opposed to eight. Also, why not a quick
ten-yard out with six seconds left to get us an extra ten yards for the Hail
BRING ON THE G-MEN
Now at 1-1, and in need of a win to remain at least in a tie for first place, the Browns travel to New York to face a Giants team that they should be able to defeat … injuries or no injuries. The Giants had lost nine straight games (dating back to last season) before last week's home win over the Redskins, and barely hung on for victory despite causing seven turnovers and committing just one. They were out gained by the Redskins, rushed for just 62 yards, and were 1-13 on third down conversions.
In week one, the Giants were dominated by the Eagles in Philly, and only a late 72-yard TD run by Tiki Barber helped salvage the final score (31-17) as well as the Giants final offensive statistics. This is a bad offensive football team, and is perhaps one of the few teams in football with an offensive line more porous than ours. This is a football game we should win. This is a football game we need to win.
That all being said, it's never easy to win on the road in this league, and the odds makers agree … opening the Browns as 2 ½ point underdogs to the G-Men. Despite their offensive shortcomings, this is still an above average team defensively, with a coach and quarterback that are getting more comfortable in their surroundings by the day, and established veterans at the skill positions offensively.
This is an incredibly crucial game early in the season for this Browns team. A loss would essentially make the game at home versus the Redskins next week a must win given the piling injuries and a very tough schedule in October and November.
In the end, I think the Browns will get the job done this week and respond with an impressive performance at a time when many fans have already counted them out after a disastrous week two that saw six starters get injured, and the offense set records for futility. Campo should be able to exploit the Giants weak offensive line and their turnover prone signal caller, and I expect a great bounce back game from Garcia offensively.