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