Frank Derry: Baby Steps

Frank feels the Browns made some positive strides Sunday. Still, many questions remain...

In the hilarious movie "What About Bob?," neurotic patient Bob Wiley, played by Bill Murray, makes progress by relying upon a book titled "Baby Steps," written by his psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin, played by Richard Dreyfuss.

Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns, in my opinion, actually made progress by taking some "Baby Steps" of their own in a 34-17 loss to the rugged Bengals, who are a much more formidable foe than were the New Orleans Saints.

Losing to the Bengals is no disgrace, especially when you are playing on their home turf. And this was actually still a game when the Browns scored early in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 20-10.

Even though the progress I saw might not have been reflected in the final score, there were some things that Bob … err, the Browns … did that had to please their resident psychiatrist, Romeo Crennel, who had a very difficult time figuring out why his team played so poorly in the opener.

For example:

  • The offensive line did a much better job of protecting quarterback Charlie Frye, who was actually only forced to scramble for his life one time.  Frye was not sacked and was only hit a couple of times after throwing the ball. He was sacked five times by the Saints and it seemed like he was hit every time he threw the ball in the opener. In Week One, the Bengal defense sacked the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterbacks seven times, including a concussion inflicted upon starting quarterback Trent Green.
  • Frye had plenty of time to complete a perfect bomb to Braylon Edwards, who set up the Browns' first touchdown with his 75 yard catch that gave the Browns a first-and-goal on the 2 yard line.
  • The Browns finished with just two penalties for yards. They had four penalties for 35 yards in the opener, plus a couple that were declined.
  • Three different Browns sacked Carson Palmer thanks to a variety of blitz packages. Linebackers Chaun Thompson and Matt Stewart had one each, as did safety Brodney Pool.

Of course, there were plenty of things that didn't go well that will cause Dr. Crennel to do a lot of analyzing this week.

For one thing, what can be done to tighten up the pass defense? Far too many times Bengal wide receivers ran wide open in the Browns' defensive backfield. Some of the problems can be traced to the fact cornerback Daylon McCutcheon is out. That results in Ralph Brown being on the field in the special defenses. He appears to be a weak link.

And where have Orpehus Roye and Alvin McKinley been hiding? It seems like neither one of the team's starting defensive ends has been much of a factor in either game. McKinley had four tackles in the opener and two against the Bengals, while Roye had two in the opener and four against the Bengals.

A year ago, Roye might very well have been the most consistent player on the Browns' defense, so his lack of production this year can't be blamed on the 3-4 defense. He needs to return to his 2005 level.

And what about the third down situations from both sides of the ball? The Browns were a miserable 2-for-10 on offense, while the Bengals were a very efficient 8-for-15. That in itself is the story of the game.

And what about a second straight week of no offense in the first half? The Browns appear to be ultra-conservative to start the game. They normally will script their first 12 plays and either the script needs to have a new author, or someone is giving a copy to the opposition.

The lack of offense in the first half resulted in the defense being on the field for a majority of the time before intermission. That eventually led to the defense wearing down in the fourth quarter, when the Bengals scored two touchdowns and a field goal to clinch the win.

And just how reliable is Edwards? Granted, he caught the 75-yarder to set up one score and also made a leaping catch for a first down earlier in the game. But he also dropped two balls after having made a costly miss in the opener that led to a game-ending interception. Ohio State fans will forever remember the critical pass he dropped against the Buckeyes while he played for the University of Michigan.

And what about veterans Ted Washington and Willie McGinist? McGinist, who missed the entire preseason due to injury, sat out Sunday's game due to a calf injury that was aggravated during the pre-game workout.

Washington, meanwhile, has not been the run-stopper the Browns envisioned when they signed him to clog the middle. The Bengals ran 32 times for 160 yards.

You have to wonder whether Washington and McGinist are over the hill? And what happens in the final month of a long, losing season if they can't contribute during the first month?

To the Browns' credit, they are not at all satisfied with the "baby steps" it appeared they took. In fact linebacker Andra Davis called the performance "terrible," and actually apologized to the fans for the way the team played.

But the real apologies should have come after losing to a terrible New Orleans team. A Super Bowl-caliber team like the Bengals is going to beat a lot of teams this year, including many that are much better than the Browns.

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