EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS: The Browns have a real chance to
enter the bye week with a .500 record. That's not a great record -- coach Romeo
Crennel probably would call it average -- but it far exceeds what anyone
expected of this team early in the season.
Cleveland's early schedule included home games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore and a trip to New England.
Few thought the Browns would win any of the division games, and nobody gave them a chance in New England.
But the Browns stole a game from Cincinnati, then beat Baltimore handily. A last-second field goal block in Oakland is the only thing that is keeping the Browns from being 3-2 already.
With winless Miami coming to town, the Browns have a chance to finish 3-3 heading into the bye, and then perhaps do something good after.
The weaker part of the team's schedule comes late, so if the Browns can tread water at this point they may be able to surprise some people in the second half.
If they did, it would have to be considered a wildly successful season.
FINS FANS GET THEIR WISH: Dolphins fans have been wanting to give Cleo Lemon a chance for two years. They'll finally get their wish on Sunday as the perennial clipboard holder will start in place of Trent Green, whose out indefinitely with another severe concussion.
Lemon will make his second career start, with the last being in the 2006 regular season finale against the Colts, who had already clinched a playoff berth. Lemon actually held his own against eventual Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning in a 27-22 loss. He completed 18 of 36 for 210 yards with an eight-yard touchdown pass and an interception. But he seems to have trouble getting the ball into the end zone as six of the scoring drives ended in Olindo Mare field goals.
On Sunday, Lemon again was okay in relief of Green, but seemed jittery in the pocket when facing any kind of pressure as the Texans prevailed 22-19. He directed four scoring drives, three of which ended in Jay Feely field goals. Lemon completed 15 of 27 for 151 yards but was picked off on a poorly underthrown pass intended for Marty Booker
Of course, with a full week to prepare and taking most of the snaps with the first team, Lemon is being put into a fairer position to succeed this week against the 31st-ranked defense of the Browns.
"When you get a chance to prepare during the week, go through the game plan and get reps, it always helps," Lemon said Monday.
"I have always prepared myself to be successful in life. I never think negatively so I am always prepared to be successful. When your number is called you have to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity."
An 0-5 record can either create more pressure for an inexperienced starting quarterback or alleviate it.
"You never want to put any more pressure on yourself that is already put on from you guys. From that point, you just want to go out and have fun, let it loose and be prepared. Mentally you are ready, physically you are ready, so now it is fun time. Sunday is fun," he said.
Lemon did connect a pass to tight end Justin Peelle last week.
--QB Derek Anderson will not give up the starting job to Brady Quinn any time soon. Anderson threw three interceptions in the first half in New England, but brought the Browns back in the second half. His performance was about what was expected given the talent and coaching of the Patriots.
--TE Kellen Winslow caught another touchdown pass against New England and continues to be a vital part of the offense. Winslow had a late fumble, but the game had been decided at that point. It's difficult to find much to complain about with Winslow's game.
--WR Braylon Edwards had his third 100-yard game of the season. Edwards has lived up to offseason promises to be a better teammate and a more complete player. If he keeps playing like he has, the Pro Bowl could be in his future some day.
--WR Joe Jurevicius missed the second half of the Patriots loss with swelling in his knee. If he misses any significant time he will be missed. Jurevicius is dependable, smart and savvy -- and there is no proven third receiver to take his place.
--LB Willie McGinest was not happy when the Patriots gave Junior Seau his number. McGinest couldn't have been thrilled to see the new No. 55 crush the Browns with two interceptions.
--NT Ted Washington was inactive against New England, making his future with the Browns even more tenuous. At some point, the roster spot Washington uses may be used in more valuable ways -- especially if Jamal Lewis and Joe Jurevicius miss significant time.
--RB Jason Wright will take over if Jamal Lewis misses any time. Wright is solid, but not spectacular. His strength is his dependability, but he lacks the strength of Lewis and the speed of other top backs.
--WR Tim Carter probably will step in if Joe Jurevicius misses time with a knee problem. Carter came to Cleveland with a reputation for dropping passes. He has done nothing to dispel that reputation.
--QB Trent Green is out indefinitely with a concussion and his playing days could be over. Cleo Lemon will get his second start of his nondescript four-year career. With the Browns giving up more than 30 points a game, Lemon may get off to a pretty good head start.
--RB Ronnie Brown has gone from sharing the backfield with an unheralded Jesse Chatman the first two games to being the most prolific running back in the NFL. Over the past three games Brown has compiled 571 yards from the line of scrimmage, nearly 60 percent of the teams' 987 net yards in that span. He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
--WR Chris Chambers has cooled off after his career-best three-game start in which he had 21 catches for 302 yards, and has just four catches for 40 yards in the last two games. His touchdown draught is now at 13 games.
--WR Marty Booker had five catches for 45 yards, but nothing longer than 11 yards as his deep threat days seem over.
--TE David Martin had two catches for 12 yards, but committed a brutal false start on 4th-and-1 at the Texans' goal line. The penalty forced Cameron to settle for a field goal.
--DE Jason Taylor rediscovered his Defensive Player of the Year form with two sacks and a strip, but once again committed a foolish personal foul penalty for hitting Texans QB Matt Schaub out of bounds on a series that resulted in Houston's only touchdown of the game. Also, Taylor was unable to pressure Schaub on the game-winning drive which started on Houston's 3.
--SS Cameron Worrell received his first NFL start and although he led the team with 11 tackles, Schaub targeted him for most of the critical completions down the stretch.
--LB Zach Thomas, who returned after a two-game absence while dealing with his own concussion, bolstered the 32nd-ranked run defense into its best effort of the season. Thomas had nine tackles and helped hold RB Ron Dayne and the Texans to 74 yards on 2.6 yards per carry.
--LB Channing Crowder, who was the team leader in tackles before sustaining a sprained ankle in the first half of the loss to the Raiders, missed his first game as a pro Sunday. He was replaced by Derrick Pope, who seemed invisible. Crowder is expected back this week.
--DT Rod Wright made his first NFL start in place of injured starter Vonnie Holliday (ankle), and performed admirably with three tackles, a pass defensed and his first fumble recovery. Holliday will probably miss Sunday's game against the Browns as well.