Here's a 12-pack of things to look for in preparation for the Cleveland Browns getting off the snide and registering their first win of the 2006 season.
(Oh yeah, I'm calling my shot. Right here, right now. Babe Ruth, Schmabe Ruth. If you could see me right now, my Louisville Slugger is cockily pointed toward the general direction of Wrigley Field.)
(OK, I'm just flat-out lying now. It's actually my finger pointing in the general direction of my better half indicating that I need another beer. But it's the same basic concept, one that I'm sure The Bambino would take pride in and relish.)
- Items one through eleven in this 12-pack could very easily consist of variations on the theme "keep Charlie from getting pounded". He simply cannot continue to take the beating that he's taken in two of the first three games of the season and be expected to survive for a full sixteen games. For crying out loud,
Rodney King sent him a sympathy card earlier in the week. It's partly on the offensive line to afford better protection, and partly on Frye to get rid of the ball quicker. Both must do their part to keep the hits to a bare minimum.
- For the umpteenth time, Romeo and Maurice, "The Ghost" is merely a nickname and is not meant to be taken literally. Give Jerome Harrison the damn ball two or three times. A quarter. Even if Reuben Droughns is healthy enough to play, he likely won't be healthy enough to shoulder the load for an entire game. You have a diverse weapon at your disposal, and yet you're allowing it to gather more dust than a Playboy mag on Rep. Foley's desk. Just stop it already.
(In whispery, Field of Dreams voice: If you use him, he will become.)
(In creepy Republican whisper: You in your boxers, too?)
- Chris Crocker who? Just sit back, relax and watch Sean Jones continue to grow into a dominating force right before our collective eyes. In one way or another, he's had an impact in each of this season's three games. Leigh Bodden might be the defense's only legitimate Pro Bowl talent this year, but next year he could have some company. Yes, Jones' progress has been
- Stop playing games already and start Kamerion Wimbley opposite Willie McGinest. Matt Stewart is a nice player with a good motor—Justin Smith translation: white—but it's time to take the training wheels off the rookie and allow him to create the havoc that we've already seen flashes of early. This isn't Talladega, so the restrictor plate can be removed and the horsepower unleashed.
- The above dovetails nicely into the following: the Browns are facing a second-year quarterback—Andrew Walter—who will be making his first career start. I don't mean to use my outside, drunk voice so early in the morning, but,
PUT PRESSURE ON THE YOUNG MAN. Part of that comes from the unleashing of Wimbley. Part comes from disguising coverages. And part comes from a five-letter word that seems to have morphed into a four-letter one for the defensive coaching staff: blitz. Blitz him from the moment his alarm goes off this morning, and don't let up until the final gun sounds. Treat him the way other teams treat Frye.
- Don't allow Walter and the Howitzer of a right arm he possesses to connect with Randy Moss. Unlike his needs-to-be-busted wig, the talented receiver has been held in check the first two games of the season. Leigh Bodden needs to tightly cornrow Moss' still-lethal deep-receiving talent and keep him checked.
- Don't get comfortable, Mr. Carthon. One game does not get you a reprieve from the gallows. String a few together and we might think about possibly using our pull with the governor. I'd still strongly urge you to get that last meal menu turned in, though.
- If you have a hot hand in basketball, your teammates will continue to feed you the ball until you've either a.) self-cooled or b.) been stopped by the opposition. Frye has a pair of hot hands in Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, so he needs to continue to feed them the rock until either "a" or "b" develops. I'd be heat-checking the duo from 15:00 of the first until zero trips show up in the fourth. But that's just me. I'm point guardish like that.
- The Raiders' #10 ranking in overall defense is Exhibit A of the old Mark Twain (or Benjamin Disraeli, if you're so inclined) adage about the levels of lying: "there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics". Both of the Raiders' first two opponents—Baltimore and San Diego—built early leads and cruised to victory. The ranking is not indicative of the quality of the Oakland—it's still Oakland, right?—defense. Big plays and long drives are there for the taking. Grab it like a congressman at a page orientation.
(And, yes, I will run the Foley thing into the ground. So much so, in fact, that I will be saying it in Mandarin by this time next week.)
- I know the team can't think this way, so I'll do it for them. A loss today, and you are staring a 0-6 start squarely in the face. Play with the same kind of urgency, fervor and determination that you did against the Ravens, and you'll be just fine.
- This is more of a personal request of the Browns than something to look for in the game: please, please, please get better so that the days of Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots are nothing but a distant and ear-splittingly painful memory. Please? The game has yet to be played, and I'm already annoyed and headachy by their broadcast of the game. Alleve? Check. Beer? Check. Glock, just in case? Check.