You know it's a rough week to be a Browns fan when the only moment of joy you can take from the game is the memory of watching an official get hit in the balls with an errantly thrown pass. That's just the kind of game it was. Our defense, which has been so sound all year, was victimized early. Which is not good considering our offense still has not scored an offensive touchdown in the first half through five games. And the offensive line, my lord is this offensive line terrible … and so poorly prepared week in and week out.
DAZED AND CONFUSED
It's downright maddening watching the Browns offensive line get their asses handed to them every week. Especially given the fact that we were promised by Butch Davis on December 27th, 2003 (in his season ending press conference last year) that addressing the offensive line would be a top priority this past off-season.
The Browns are simply helpless against the blitz, and opposing defensive coordinators are licking their chops at the opportunity to face us right now. Our guards are absolutely horrible, we have no depth, and even our best linemen are wildly inconsistent.
Those who blame Garcia for this mess amuse me, and I often wonder if they are watching the same games I am. Of course he has "happy feet". He's being hammered by opposing pass rushers three seconds into 65% of every passing sequence. How many quarterbacks and assistant coaches must we burn through before the true root of the problem is realized?
LARRY MUST GO
Can someone please tell me how Larry Zierlein still has his job as the offensive line coach of this football team? He should be fired immediately. He's now in his fourth season in this post, and for four seasons, his unit has been a league laughing stock. His unit is ill prepared every week, and we saw more of the same this week as the Steeler blitz forced Garcia into 23 hurries, 14 knockdowns, another first half with no touchdowns, and yet another 2-12 performance on 3rd down conversions.
Zierlein is working with seriously limited talent and depth, but remember, he is consulted on potential personnel decisions (or lack thereof) with this offensive line. When we continue to see the team trot the same retreads out there, and sign players like Garmon, he should not be spared of the blame there.
It's puzzling how Zierlein even got this job in the first place, and I plan on researching it further this week. Butch brought him aboard in 2001, and before that, was the offensive line coach at the University of Cincinnati for four seasons. Before that, he held the same post at Tulane for a couple years. The man had no NFL experience when taking the post.
POINT OF NO RETURN
If I never see Dee Brown take back another kickoff, it will be too soon. Brown took five straight kickoffs and ran right into the first Steeler defender to get downfield. Maybe it's just me, but it seems almost as if Browns return men are instructed not to try and take kick returns to the edges of the field.
The Browns are now 31st in the NFL with a 16.4 average return on kickoffs. Why is Dennis Northcutt not taking back kicks for us? We don't use him nearly enough on offense to justify the argument that the team doesn't want to overuse him. And he's clearly our most elusive and electric player in the open field. Even Richard Alston, or possibly even Lee Suggs.
HINDSIGHT IS ALWAYS 20/20
In Dave Campo's defense, where rarely anyone aside from the front four rush the passer, it's key to have defensive ends that can consistently apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. We had an opportunity to land one of the best in the league this pre-season when Miami was shopping Adewale Ogunleye.
At the time, we were hesitant to part with Quincy Morgan, James Jackson, or draft picks. Ogunleye, who has registered 24.5 sacks the last two years and is still just 27 years old, was eventually sent to the Bears for Marty Booker and a 2005 3rd round pick.
Ogunleye has already posted 15 tackles, 2 sacks, and a fumble recovery in his first four games for the Bears despite missing all of camp.
Looking ahead, we find ourselves in the exact same position as we were two weeks ago. We are in a must win situation against a substandard opponent here at home with an opportunity to get back to .500.
It's obvious, based on how this team has played offensively, that no wins can be counted on to come easy this year. And this game coming up against the Bengals should be a dogfight. The Bengals are even more desperate for a win than we are, as they are off to a 1-3 start despite lofty expectations in Marvin Lewis's second season in town. They are 3-2 against us in Cleveland since our return to the league, and spanked the Ravens coming off their bye week last season.
The problems with this Cincinnati team this year have been a lack of production from Carson Palmer, and a porous run defense. Palmer is averaging 38.5 attempts per game, third most in the league, yet has thrown just three touchdowns against seven interceptions. Also, the Bengals are averaging just 4.6 yards per play offensively, a lower average than the Browns offense, and 29th in the league overall.
Defensively, no team has been worse against the run. The Bengals have allowed 165 rushing yards per game. Teams are running the ball down their throats to a tune of 32 times per game. The Bengals are also last in the league with just six sacks, and are allowing their opponents to convert over 41% of their 3rd down conversions.
Hopefully, this will be just the tonic needed for a badly struggling Browns offense. I would expect to see heavy doses of Green and Suggs, and a lot of play action with Garcia being moved out of the pocket.
The Browns desperately need this game. A loss here would put us at 2-4 as we head into a portion of the schedule that sees us face the Eagles, Ravens, Steelers, and Jets. This game is our season.