Browns-Packers: Game Snapshot

The cheeseheads will be out en masse as the Browns take on the Packers today at 4:15. All of us here at Bernie's Insiders are getting fired up for gametime! Here are some up-to-the-minute notes on personnel and strategies for today's game.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 9/18/05

SURFACE: Grass

TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Bonnie Bernstein

SERIES: 16th meeting. The Green Bay Packers lead the series 9-6 and have a 4-2 advantage in Green Bay. The Browns have not won in Green Bay since a 24-7 victory Nov. 4, 1956. The have been to Green Bay four times since and lost each time.

*2005 rankings: Browns: offense 9th (18th rush, 6th pass); defense 30th (26th rush, 25th pass). Packers: offense 30th (28th rush, 25th pass); defense 6th (19th rush, 4th pass)

PREDICTION: Packers 27-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Packers are struggling to protect QB Brett Favre, especially in the middle of their offensive line, and now are without top WR Javon Walker. That makes it all the more vital to establish a running game that has been inconsistent through the preseason and Week 1. The Browns could prove the perfect medicine as they make the transition to a 3-4 defense despite insufficient personnel -- especially at the pass-rushing positions. Cleveland feels better about its offense, although coach Romeo Crennel doesn't want QB Trent Dilfer throwing the ball 43 times again. It's key for the Browns to keep the game close and rely on RB Reuben Droughns. They need to be able to control the clock if for no other reason than to keep their defense off the field.

FAST FACTS: Browns: Dilfer is 2-7 as a starting quarterback against the Packers. ... WR Dennis Northcutt needs 57 punt return yards to pass Gerald McNeil (1,545) for the franchise's all-time lead. Packers: Lead the series 10-6, and won the only meeting since the Browns re-entered the league, 30-7, at home in 2001. ... Favre has six TD passes and no INTs with a 108.5 passer rating in three career games against the Browns.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Browns

  • RB Lee Suggs returned to practice and moved pretty well, according to coach Romeo Crennel. Suggs has been sidelined since Aug. 18 with a high ankle sprain. Crennel probably will decide on Sunday if Suggs will play.
     
  • RB Reuben Droughns will start against Green Bay and figures to get most of the team's carries. Droughns outperformed William Green in the opener and earned a shot at being the lead back.
     
  • CB Gary Baxter returned to practice and there's a good chance he will start Sunday in Green Bay. Baxter has been sidelined since Aug. 20 with a concussion. If he plays, it will be the first time all season that starters Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon will be on the field together. It might not matter a lot, though, as neither are pure cover corners.
     
  • DE Orpheus Roye has been listed as questionable on the injury report with a hyperextended knee, but Roye vowed to play in Green Bay. Roye is always there on Sunday.
     
  • LB Matt Stewart could miss up to a month with a sprained MCL in his knee. Stewart is not a superstar, but his loss does not help the Browns run defense. He is replaced by Chaun Thompson, who is a fast linebacker best suited to rushing the passer. Kenard Lang, a converted defensive end, starts at the other outside spot.

Packers

  • OLB Na'il Diggs practiced for the second straight day after being out since Aug. 8 with a torn MCL in his left knee.

    Diggs is questionable for Sunday's home opener against Cleveland. With Paris Lenon getting most of the reps with the No. 1 defense at the strongside spot, it's possible Diggs will be held out until the Sept. 25 game against Tampa Bay.

    "I really don't want to rush it," Diggs said Thursday. "I don't want to put any pressure on (the knee). When everyone feels confident that Na'il Diggs is ready to play, Na'il Diggs will play."
     
  • WR Javon Walker remains on the 53-man roster, though he's headed to injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during the season-opening loss at Detroit. Surgery has yet to be scheduled for Walker, the only player who hasn't practiced this week.
     
  • WR Robert Ferguson, who will move into the starting lineup alongside Donald Driver with Walker out, will have his sizable role on special teams reduced. Ferguson has been an invaluable coverage man on punts and kickoffs and also has returned kickoffs. A final decision on whether Ferguson will continue to return kickoffs or be used solely on the coverage units hasn't been announced. Fellow receivers Antonio Chatman and Terrence Murphy are candidates to replace Ferguson on kickoff returns, working in tandem with RB Najeh Davenport.
     
  • DT Cullen Jenkins is entrenched as the starter on the interior of the defensive line beside NT Grady Jackson. Jenkins, younger brother of Carolina All-Pro tackle Kris Jenkins, will work in a rotation with Corey Williams and Colin Cole at the three-technique position.
     
  • QB Aaron Rodgers has resumed working on holds for field goals and extra points now that he's been thrust into the No. 2 role behind Brett Favre. The team backed off having Rodgers, its top draft pick this year, audition for the vacant holding job early in the preseason when it appeared fourth-year veteran Craig Nall would emerge as Favre's top backup. Punter B.J. Sander is K Ryan Longwell's holder. Despite Sander's bungling a snap that foiled what would have been a 22-yard field goal in the opener, Longwell said he prefers having the second-year punter as his holder. Rodgers is merely being groomed for "a worst-case scenario," according to Longwell.


INSIDE THE CAMPS

Browns

The Browns have one fear for Sunday's game in Green Bay: The Packers will turn the offense over to running back Ahman Green.

There's good reason. The Browns front seven is suspect, and Rudi Johnson and the Bengals showed in week one that it's not all that difficult to run on the Browns 3-4 defense. Cincinnati ran for 148 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

In their season-opening loss in Detroit, the Packers ran Green just 12 times.

Penalties partly led to that low total, but the Browns know that Green is too good to run only 12 times.

So the defense is preparing for Green - and perhaps even backup Najeh Davenport - to get a bunch of carries.

Until the Browns show they can stop the run, teams will continue to run on them. It is, after all, the simplest way to win a game in the NFL.

Packers

Coach Mike Sherman has gone old-school during practice this week in his latest attempt to crack down on his team's troublesome propensity for getting into trouble on the field.

Players who are penalized by a local crew of three officials or commit a turnover are promptly subjected to running a good distance. Generally, from one end of the expansive outdoor field to the fence on the other end.

"That's a long field - that's a 200-yard field. Nobody wants to be running that," running back Tony Fisher asserted Thursday following a practice that he said included quite a number of winded participants.

"We had a few too many penalties today, so there was a lot of running. We have a couple of more days to get it out of our system."

On the heels of committing 36 penalties totaling 274 yards in four preseason games, the transgressions were alarmingly unprecedented in a season-opening loss at Detroit on Sunday.

The mischievous Packers were cited 18 times for breaking the rules, of which 14 were enforced for 100 yards. It's the greatest number of penalties for one game with Sherman as coach since 2000 and the team's highest in nearly 18 years.

"What we did last week was unacceptable, and we know that," right tackle Mark Tauscher said.

Sherman has prided himself on coaching teams that have been highly disciplined. In his first five years, the Packers averaged only six penalties for 49 yards per game.

One game into this season, they rank second in the league behind the notorious lawbreakers from Oakland, who were penalized 16 times for 149 yards.

Eight of the Packers' penalties were charged to the offense, with four negating gains of 75 yards. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll, a chief offender as a rookie last season, committed four infractions on defense and lost his starting job this week to Joey Thomas.

Since his constant directives in meetings have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, Sherman resorted to the high school-like punitive measure of having players run in practice to pay for their inexcusable mistakes.

"There's only so much a coaching staff can do," Tauscher said. "It's up to the players to start executing better and more crisply. We have to start taking some ownership. The coaches coach, and we play. The coaches aren't the ones out there getting penalties. They're putting us in the best position to make plays, and if we don't start doing it, we're going to continue to struggle."

 


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