Browns-Saints: JT's Pre-Game 12-Pack

John Taylor is, as we speak, attempting to recover from Saturday evening's Ohio State - Texas game. Even if you're reading this a year later in the archives, I'm guessing it will still be true. Fortunately, he was coherent enough to pound out his usual 12-pack of pre-game analysis...

Before I begin the meticulous and painstaking process of preparing for today's season-opener—which basically consists of ensuring that a.) the fridge is stocked with beer, and, b.) the underwear that was on my head last night is removed so that I may Visine my eyes by way of fire hose—here's a twelve-pack of things to look for as the Browns pop the top on the 2006 campaign.

  • The Great Charlie Frye Experiment begins in earnest.  Can he successfully begin the process of proving that he deserves being handed his starting opportunity on an unchallenged silver platter?  Or will the shadow of doubt concerning his being the long-term answer at the position continue to grow?  One game does not make or break his chances of success, but a good start would at least muzzle some of the critic's rhetoric.

  • This will be Reggie Bush's NFL coming-out party.  The Browns are charged with keeping it a low-key affair and not allowing it to become a gala replete with balloons and streamers and midgets and monkeys.  Especially midgets and monkeys.  Nothing good ever comes of midgets and monkeys suddenly appearing on a football field.  The Browns would be wise to heed the motto of the Braylon Edwards School of Stopping Reggie Bush: Hit him in the mouth on every play.  Well, that and keeping him between the hash marks and not allowing him to beat you to the edges.  In other words: contain, contain, contain.

  • Speaking of Bush, the Browns do not need to let the hype surrounding his regular-season debut take their focus off the Saints most dependable and NFL-known offensive weapon: Deuce McAllister.  Yes, McAllister is coming off a torn ACL that ended his 2005 season in early October, but he has looked impressive throughout the pre-season and has suffered no bouts of swelling in the surgically-repaired knee.  He is nearing 100% health and will run with a chip on his shoulder after spending the off-season and whole of training camp standing in the shadow of Bush's massive spotlight.  He's dangerous and the Browns would be well advised to keep at least one eye trained squarely in the former Pro Bowler's general direction.

  • Speaking of debuts, Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson and Jerome Harrison take their collective acts to the bright lights of Broadway after their off-Broadway debuts closed to rave reviews.  The pre-season plaudits were one thing; now is when the real critiquing begins.

  • Was the Moanderthal offense seen in the pre-season simply a matter of not showing your hand when the games don't count, or is that going to be all you get when the games do?  Throughout the course of training camp, the Browns worked extensively—more so than in 2005—on the deep passing game.  While they failed to show it in the pre-season, it would seem counter-productive to spend that much time and effort on an aspect of the game that will do nothing but sit in the corner unwrapped and gathering dust.  While it won't be confused with Air Coryell or The Greatest Show On Turf, look for the Browns to hit a sub-par New Orleans secondary with down-the-field throws on multiple occasions.  And look for them to do it early.

  • With that being said, borrow and steal liberally from the old USC Trojans playbook.  Reuben Body Left.  Reuben Body Right.  Reuben Body Up The Middle.  The middle of the Saints defense is porous with a capital "ous".  Stretch the field, yes, but throw a copious amount of Droughns body blows into the mix as well.

  • Watch Ted Washington toss Jeff Faine to and fro on a regular basis and recall with fondness how Casey Hampton et al did much the same to Faine last season and the season before.  Maybe it will ring a bell or shake something loose as to exactly why LeCharles Bentley was signed and Faine was dealt.

    (As an aside: would it be possible for the music guys at Cleveland Browns Stadium to pipe a liberal dose of Aerosmith's "Rag Doll" through the stadium speakers?  Can somebody help me on this?)

  • With the Browns offensive line in a state of flux*, they could not ask for a better opponent to start the regular season against than the Saints.  In a word, the Saints pass rush nursed on teats last year, and they did next to nothing to improve it this past off-season.  In fact, the Saints pass rush was/is such that the Browns pass rush scoffed, and continues to scoff, in their general direction.  This game should allow the OL to start the process of jelling, while at the same time keeping Charlie Frye off of a respirator for at least another week.

    (*just what country is that state in and how can the Browns get the flux out of it?)

  • Much like the offensive line, the Browns' injury-depleted secondary could be catching a break facing the Saints the first week of the season.  After you get past veteran Joe Horn, you have… well… not much.  Rookie seventh-round draft pick Marques Colston out of Hofstra starts opposite Horn, while the other four WRs on the depth have eight years of experience and 30 catches.  Total.  Needless to say, the Browns could be catching a break after seeing injuries ravage the unit, particularly the cornerback position.  The defensive staff should be able to ease Gary Baxter back into action by locking Leigh Bodden onto Horn's hip, allowing Baxter to get his football legs back against unproven and inexperienced receivers.

  • The Saints could conceivably be in a worse situation on the offensive line than even the Browns.  New Orleans will start a rookie at right guard (Jahri Evans), a three-year veteran with 10 games of experience at right tackle (Jon Stinchcomb) and a second-year player who will move to left tackle for the first time and protect quarterback Drew Brees' blindside (Jammal Brown).  Yes, that would be the 25-Year-Old LT Virgin protecting Brees and his surgically-repaired right shoulder.  As noted poet laureate Ice Cube once so eloquently riffed…

    Yo, RAC, he's a berry let's run a train.
  • Utilize Kellen Winslow.  Then, utilize him again.  And again.  And again.  SSLB Scott Fujita has the size to muscle Winslow, but not the speed to keep up with him.  Rookie SS Roman Harper has the speed but not the size.  Nobody on the Saints roster has the ability to consistently drape Winslow, even if he is only at a self-proclaimed 90%.  Offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon must find a way to get Winslow matched up one-on-one and exploit those match-ups as much as possible.

  • The Saints are not a good team by any stretch of the imagination.  But, then again, neither are the Browns.  Fans seem to have holstered their pencils and whipped out the Sharpie, placing a checkmark next to the good guys in the win column.  Like this is going to be a realistic historical re-enactment of Georgia Tech versus Cumberland circa 1916 or something.  If the players are thinking the same way, this could be a very long afternoon.  The Browns simply are not good enough to look past anybody right now, and I'm quite certain that Romeo Crennel is drilling that message into the heads of every single member of the 53-man roster.


Oh yeah, one more thing before I head off to the fridge to grab a cold one…

Haaaaaang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on…





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