Giants vs. Browns
Preseason Week 2
The Browns' starting offense was limited to just one series against the Jets, but that should change this week as head coach Romeo Crennel will attempt to get a look at his offense against one of the best defenses the NFL has to offer.
It is also an excellent test for the Browns' defense as they face the rushing attack of the Super Bowl Champs. The difficulty in getting a good look at the starting units lies in a very bizarre preseason schedule.
The Browns enter Giants Stadium for a Monday Night prime time affair.
The following Saturday they play at Detroit and they follow the Lions game with a home game versus the Bears on the following Thursday. Two road contests and one home game in just 10 days will make one tough balancing act for Crennel and his Browns.
The Giants play a bruising style of offense led by 265 pounds of running back in Brandon Jacobs. He also possesses a tremendous amount of speed and quickness despite his large frame. If he gets into the open field, it becomes a nightmare situation for any defensive back that has to come up and make a play on Jacobs. The Giants also like to get the big man involved in the passing game as the dump-down emergency receiver but also with the screen pass.
Behind Jacobs is the speedster Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw reminds me a lot of Jerome Harrison with his small size and shiftiness. He came on big in the playoffs. The Giants also have former Brown Reuben Droughns and Derrick Ward to share the load.
The Giants line is a combination of technique and power. Ex-Brown Shaun O'Hara anchors the middle of the Giants offensive line. Shaun is a terrific center that sets the tone for their entire offensive line.
It should be a great match-up as he will face off against Shaun Rodgers.
Quarterback Eli Manning was a former #1 overall draft pick and last year's Super Bowl MVP, but he is more of the game manager than the game breaker. When allowed to simply play his game of working the running game while using the pass to move the chains, Eli is at his best. If Eli is forced to carry the offense, he and the offense as a whole can struggle. It is vital to get pressure on him early in the game and not allow him to find his comfort zone.
Despite trading the vocal but talented tight end Jeremy Shockey during the off season, tight end remains vital in the Giants passing game.
Kevin Boss is a dual-threat tight end with his ability to block as well as the skill to find his way into the soft part of defenses on passing downs. He has excellent hands and is improving his route running.
Last year, the Giants were 4th in the league in rushing yards while the Browns were 27th in run defense. The Browns' run defense has been horrid for years. In fact, the last time the Browns were able to stop the run on a consistent basis, Michael Dean Perry was in the lineup.
That should change this year with the additions of Shaun Rodgers and Corey Williams along with Shaun Smith and Robaire Smith. They should produce a nice four-man rotation, but the key very well may be in who becomes the 5th and 6th defensive linemen. Rookie nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin needs a big showing this week.
The Browns' linebackers must show not only the ability to stop the run -- which is difficult enough in its own right -- but they must also flash the ability to get to the passer when needed. Rookie Alex Hall could find himself in this one early and often as the Browns look to get Hall experience while looking to preserve veteran Willie McGinest for the regular season.
The corner tandem of Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright are on the small size when compared to Burress and Toomer. This will be an excellent challenge for the young duo, as they will face off against this combo once again during the regular season and also against receivers of similar size all season long.
The Giants' defense is built upon the philosophy of getting pressure in the backfield. Their front seven is one of the best in all of football and possibly the best at getting to the quarterback whenever they want.
Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are two of the most relentless sack artists in the game from the defensive end positions. Osi will face off against Joe Thomas, the best young left tackle in football, while Justin will go head to head with Kevin Shaffer, one of the best pass protecting right tackles in the league. Those battles should be worth the price of admission alone.
The Giants love to blitz, especially with linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. Mathias is more suited for the OLB role in the 3-4 than in the conventional 4-3 the Giants play but he is adapting well. He is a fierce challenge for any back on blitz pickup.
The Giants secondary is underrated due to the pass rushing skills of the front seven, but this group is solid top to bottom. As a group they are excellent in run support and in making the open field tackle. The corners of Sam Madison, Aaron Ross and Corey Webster are a physical group that uses their hands to dislodge receivers from their routes.
It will be interesting to see how the inexperienced Browns receivers handle their physical play. Safety play is a weakness for the Giants, although Sammy Knight is still somewhat productive.
Braylon Edwards was injured in practice this week and although the injury doesn't appear to be anything serious, it is enough to keep him out of the match-up against the Giants and Lions. Braylon's injury presents a golden opportunity for the backup receivers to showcase their skill sets.
Steve Sanders, Travis Wilson and Syndric Steptoe are in stiff competition for the receiver slots, but I am curious to see if special teams ace Joshua Cribbs can push himself into the battle for the slot receiver position. Kick returners often have a very short shelf life and it is important for Cribbs' future to become a solid addition to the receiving corps.
While Edwards will be absent, Kellen Winslow is poised to make his return. Kellen may have to play longer than the team would like as the injury bug continues to strike the once deep pool of tight ends.
Derek Anderson should play deep into the second quarter of Monday's game. Derek was limited to only one series last week. While most teams desire to protect their quarterback with limited reps in preseason, Derek is still relatively inexperienced and every snap he gets is invaluable to his long term development. It will also be interesting to see how Anderson adapts his game with the absence of his favorite target in Edwards.
Quarterback Brady Quinn put on a display of how to work the short game last week, but that same performance seemed to stir critics of the young quarterback. By not using the vertical passing game, many saw it as a sign that he can't make the deep ball work. While this may be true, let us not forget that this was simply the first pre-season game working with an untested line and unproven receivers.
The Browns offensive line will certainly have their hands full with the front 7 of the Giants. The Giants may not use their normal blitz attacks but they will bring the heat from time to time in this one.
This is where the value of center Hank Fraley will surface. His ability to recognize and get the right blocking scheme called is critical.
Did I mention Osi Umenyiora one on one against Joe Thomas? It's worth another plug.
Fullback Lawrence Vickers should be healthy enough to play and his ability to catch the ball out of the back field could come into play. Vickers' ability to seal and block will be the focus, however, as Jamal Lewis looks to continue where he left off last week. Lewis was impressive in the first pre-season game with his quick first step and explosiveness into the hole. Lewis appears to be in the best physical condition of his life and poised to have an excellent year.
This season has the potential to be something special, and it may sound like a silly plug, but don't miss out on the outstanding content provided by the Orange and Brown Report. The coverage during the off-season has been spectacular and we look forward to providing the same type of coverage during the regular season. If the chemistry is right, we will enjoy the post-season reports as well.