Here's a list of things to look for/avoid as the Browns embark upon the possibility of maybe carrying a one-game winning streak into next Sunday's game.
(Insert parade route plans here)
- How much was Maurice Carthon to blame for the stagnant offense? While we won't get a complete answer today, we will begin the process of finding out. One thing is certain: Carthon was a part of the problem, and a big part of the problem in the eyes of many of the key performers on offense. With that "burden" lifted, the onus now falls squarely on the backs of the offense to get the job done. No more excuses. The fall guy has been felled.
- On the flip side, what will Jeff Davidson bring to the table? Again, there won't be a complete answer, but signs should begin to emerge as to what to expect from the new offensive coordinator's "tryout". According to various reports, the Browns had a solid, crisp week of practice--with one report going so far as ascribing the word "amazing" to the post-Maurice sessions--but only time will tell if that translates into on-the-field success.
- The Browns must--that's "must" with a capital "ust"--get out of the blocks early today and get the home crowd into the game. Give the fans something, anything, to cheer about, preferably sooner rather than later. It's almost like the Browns are the perpetually cheating husband and have once again stumbled through the door at two in the morning, only to find their orange-and-brown clad wife--with arms crossed and foot tapping out a menacing beat--waiting in the foyer. But, fortunately for the cheating lout, the wife is a sucker for flowers. So, if I were the Browns, I would toss a few first-quarter bouquets on the field.
- Kelly Butler is an intriguing story line as the offensive lineman takes over for Ryan Tucker--he of the "mystery illness"--at right tackle. Butler showed promise in starting 16 games for the Lions last season, but was released in the final round of cuts by Detroit's Matt Millen-led management. Butler says it was more of a case of a new regime coming in and not fitting into their plans than it was him... well... sucking. If it's the former, he could be one of those diamonds-in-the-rough that this team desperately needs. We'll see, beginning today.
- For some reason, I get the feeling that everyone involved--from the fans to the media to the players and throughout the organization--is looking at today like a fresh start and the beginning of a 10-game season. Almost like the team has played 10 pre-season games, and this is when the real football begins. Of course, dropping an offensive load onto the Cleveland Browns Stadium turf in this second "opener" would extinguish somewhat the flame of hope lit by Carthon's leaving the organization.
- I have a nagging suspicion that there are two players in particular who were doing backflips over the Carthon "resignation". I won't mention them specifically, but their names rhyme with "Josh Cribbs" and "Jerome Harrison". Oops, was that too much of a hint? Hope I didn't give it away. Anyway, seeing the two unnamed players show up in big and unique ways today--or at some point in the near future--would not be the least bit surprising.
- One thing to remember: this is a very bad Jets defense the Browns will be facing today. Adjust your reactions to the offensive production, or lack thereof, accordingly.
- What's the over/under on how many times the broadcast team mentions Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini coming from the Bill Belichick coaching tree? I'm gonna set the line at 14. For the first half. And I'll ram hot fireplace pokers in both my ears if I have to hear about "Crennel shacking up with Mangini while his house was under construction" more than once. I'll do it. Don't tempt me.
- Devan Holly has been surprisingly adequate as a replacement for both Gary Baxter and Leigh Bodden. Can that trend continue? And, stretching and extrapolating a bit, can he become the 2006 version of the 2005 Bodden, a player who gets an opportunity because of an injury and turns it into both a long-term starting assignment and a multi-million dollar contract? It's doubtful that lightning would strike twice at the same position, but, then again, no one ever thought it would strike even once.
- Speaking of Bodden, and with all due respect to Jereme Perry, come back Leigh. Please. And as an aside, if I never hear the phrases "high ankle sprain" and "patella tendon injury", I could die a happy man. Well, that and punching Brent Musberger square in the mouth.
- Does that irritating Jets fan/fireman who does the annoying "J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS" thing travel to away games? If so, would there be any way for the Browns to hire him to help put out Ralph Brown? Just an idea.
- One more thing to look for: Browns win. Book it, Dan-O.
(Only if your name is Dan. If not, please insert your own name, followed by a hyphen and the letter "O".)