Browns Notes: Run Defense Worries

The Browns need to shore up the team's run defense, or Rudi Johnson's 120 yards is just a preview of coming attractions. Notes on the team's need there, as well as Reuben Droughns, the team's injury sitation, and more...


The Browns defense did little in the season opener to quell concerns that stopping the run will be a problem.

Rudi Johnson ran for 126 yards against the Browns, and the front seven had little pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer.

Things do not get easier this weekend, as the Browns travel to Green Bay to face the Packers in what should be an emotional day in Wisconsin.

Green Bay will start the day by retiring the jersey of all-time great Reggie White, and the Packers (like the Browns) are coming off an opening-day loss.

Brett Favre will not have Javon Walker (out with a knee injury), but he might not need him as long as he can hand the ball to Ahman Green.

Teams will try to run on the Browns all year long - or at least until the Browns prove they can stop the run. The front seven is undersized, inexperienced and trying to learn a new system.

Before the game starts, the offense facing the Browns already has an advantage.

PLAYER NOTES

  • RB Reuben Droughns earned it, and it looks like he'll get it. Droughns figures to get many more carries and more playing time as the team's primary running back. Droughns averaged 6 yards per carry in the season-opening loss, but carried just 12 times. Coach Romeo Crennel said Droughns' play probably merited him more time. Look for him to be the Browns' primary back this week in Green Bay, and if he does well, for the foreseeable future.
     
  • RB Lee Suggs still is slowed by a high ankle sprain, and though he was jogging last week he doesn't figure to play in Green Bay. Suggs is a slow healer, so it's entirely possible he may not play until after the bye week Oct. 2.
     
  • TE Steve Heiden briefly left the opener Sunday with a stinger, but said he'd be fine for game two. Heiden said he lost some feeling in his arm after being hit and it was silly for him to try to keep playing. As for Green Bay, Heiden said: "I'm fine."
     
  • TE Aaron Shea missed the opener and probably will miss the Green Bay game with a strained shoulder muscle. It's possible Shea could play, but unlikely. His return seems most likely after the bye weekend, though there's a chance he could try to play in Indianapolis in week three.
     
  • CB Gary Baxter seemed better, but still will be questionable for Sunday's game. Baxter left a preseason game with a concussion on Aug. 20 and hasn't played or practiced since. Coach Romeo Crennel was asked if Baxter might make a big difference to the Browns defense, and he said: "Probably not."
     
  • LB Matt Stewart could miss up to a month with a sprained knee. Stewart hurt the knee early in the loss to the Bengals.
     
  • KR Joshua Cribbs will miss a month after spraining his MCL. Cribbs had a strong preseason. In his absence, RB Reuben Droughns returned kicks. Look for the Browns to go to someone different, or to sign another returner to take some of the pressure off of Droughns.
     
  • QB Trent Dilfer prides himself on being able to "manage" a game. In the opener, though, he threw 43 times. Nobody will admit it publicly, but everyone on the team and coaching staff knows that's too many times. Forty-three passes is a lot for any quarterback, but way too many for a quarterback like Dilfer and for a team that needs to "manage" the game so it has a chance to win in the fourth period.
     
  • QB Charlie Frye saw no playing time in the opener, even though there was little sense in the fourth period that the Browns would come back. If ever it seemed a time to give a rookie a little experience, that might have been the time. But coach Romeo Crennel opted to keep Trent Dilfer in the game, explaining that it just would not have been a good situation for Frye.
     
  • WR Antonio Bryant was little factor in the season opener and still needs to get over a hump. Bryant can look so good in practice, but in games he sometimes disappears or makes a mistake. It's what happened in the opener. If Bryant wants to be a true No. 1 receiver, it's time to step up and play like one.
     
  • WR Dennis Northcutt is starting, but really seems better suited to the third-receiver role. Northcutt is incredibly valuable as the slot receiver, where he gets into favorable matchups. But when he starts and then moves inside, he doesn't seem as effective. If rookie Braylon Edwards gets to the point that he can start, it would help the Browns to move Northcutt back to No. 3.
     
  • WR Frisman Jackson had career highs in the season opener, but it seemed more aberration than trend. Jackson was the fourth receiver, and when the Browns fell behind they went to a spread formation, leaving Jackson one-on-one with a linebacker. To his credit he took advantage of the mismatch, but it doesn't seem like something that will work every week.
     
  • PK Phil Dawson put to rest concerns about a "slump" by making both field goals in the opener. Dawson had missed four kicks in preseason, but said it was because he was working on certain elements of his game and assured folks that once he started preparing for a game things would be different. It was. Dawson remains one of the most reliable kickers in the league.

The OBR Top Stories