There comes a point in time when enough is enough. The NFL season is certainly lengthy, with the potential for parity preventing the mediocrity of most to run away with a division crown.
Two weeks into the season and the winless Cleveland Browns are in a load of trouble after losing to the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-6 Sunday night in front of a nationally televised audience. In watching this contest, the feeling was the Browns were never quite in position to win, despite what the scoreboard read.
A much-improved effort by the Cleveland defense and the weather conditions helped ground an explosive Pittsburgh offense throughout the affair at Cleveland Browns Stadium. As the defense rose to the occasion, another lackluster performance by the Cleveland offense derailed any hope for the Browns to end a nine-game losing streak against the Steelers.
Numerous aspects (or lack thereof) of the Browns play can be pointed to as the cause of this latest loss. These Browns simply do not have the wherewithal to overcome mistakes, even small ones. At every opportunity, this Cleveland team seems to find a way to turn a positive play into a negative factor in the game.
From the head coach to a member of the roster contributing on special teams, no individual associated with this team should feel good about the start of this 2008 season. Even though plenty of football is left to be played, the signs coming from these two losses cast a rather questionable outlook on the remainder of the season.
Unfortunately, the head coach and his staff are coming under fire as this team has stumbled out of the gate. Clock management by both the head coach and QB has been poor, indecision by the offensive staff has been evident, and questions persist regarding the readiness of the team and evaluation of the roster by the front office and coaching staff.
At every turn, the status of the head coach is now called into question. Much of the same could be noted about the early season inadequacies of starting quarterback Derek Anderson or whoever will line up opposite the incredibly inconsistent Braylon Edwards at WR. Due to the inability and lack of efficiency surrounding this Cleveland team early in the season, every error and any mistake is going to be magnified.
- Head coach Romeo Crennel has made a few very questionable calls, which has impacted the team in a negative way. In week one, calling for a FG when down 28-7 embarrassed the team and team owner. In week two, this veteran coach muffed managing the clock on a couple occasions. In one case, Anderson rushed and threw an ill-advised pass which was intercepted in the red-zone. Late-in-the-game timeouts were utilized ineffectively, which ultimately left the offense with little time or chance late in the game.
- How does a team struggling on offense and needing to get the ball downfield sit the best receiver on the roster at crunch-time? Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski blew it by having TE Kellen Winslow on the sideline with the clock winding down late against the Steelers. Also, either the playcalling has become predictable with all the slants and outs called, or the QB is not seeing the field well and locking in on his favorite targets. Granted, the QB hasn't had the best receiving corps on the field to throw to, but something has to give; receivers not named Edwards and Winslow are getting open.
- With the running game struggling and the offense shooting itself in the foot time after time, why did Jerome Harrison receive only one opportunity during the Pittsburgh game? One play went to Harrison -- which may have been the most exciting and promising offensive play in the game for the Browns -- a screen pass in which Harrison darted in and around the Steelers defense for a 23-yard gain.
- More offense? Some observers in the league were somewhat surprised by the lack of intensity this Cleveland team is playing with. Those around the team attribute the slow start to injuries and poor execution by the QB and a lack of legitimate threat at WR outside of the inconsistent Edwards. Yes, the Browns have faced two of the best defenses in the game and have not run the ball well, which has not helped the passing game. But, the Cleveland offense plays off itself, and the aerial assault has been weak, which has led to the offense looking very late-2007 like.
- Edwards has been terribly inconsistent and a non-factor. Coming off a Pro-Bowl season, Edwards missed the final three weeks of training camp, which may have led to some of the consistency issues, but dropping five passes is inexcusable for a player at this level, much less a significant talent like Edwards. For a struggling offense, a star receiver dropping numerous passes is going to be difficult to overcome.
- As for Anderson, he's leaving plenty of opportunities on the field. The 2008 season has started like the 2007 season ended for the QB, which is very concerning for the Cleveland organization. As the team struggles, the play of the QB is going to be under heavy scrutiny, and deservedly so at this early point in the season. The Browns may not have had a competition at the position in training camp, but the heat is going to be intensified this week against the Baltimore Ravens on the road.
- As the offense struggles, an obvious issue is the quality and depth at the WR position. With Edwards dropping passes and Donte Stallworth nursing a mild quad strain, the youth and inexperience at the position is clearly evident. The depth at the position has not emerged, some of which is due to the inexperience and some due to the QB not going to and trusting the receivers put on the field. Until the QB trusts to these WR's, the offense is going to remain at a disadvantage.
- Outside of NT Shaun Rogers, the Browns' defensive linemen were non-descript in the season opener. Against the Steelers, Corey Williams made a couple nice plays, but was a non-factor for the most part. DE Robaire Smith was steady before injuring an Achilles, while NT/DE Shaun Smith showed up and made a couple nice plays that included sacking the QB by the face-mask which resulted in a 15-yard penalty. Rogers was again a handful for the opposition, but his offsides penalty resulted in helping the Steelers keep a drive alive.
- Nickel CB Terry Cousin may have signed with the Browns a couple years too late. Cousin has not been effective, especially when spread wide. Cousin made his name due to his ability to cover receivers in the slot, which he did not do well against the Steelers as WR Hines Ward beat him on a reception. Cousin was also in coverage on two other missed opportunities by Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger.
- Say what you will about the Cleveland offensive line, but they have been respectable even as the offense as a whole has struggled. Both Dallas and Pittsburgh are able to pressure the QB and both did against the Browns, but not to the point where the team was in disarray. The pass protection and run blocking will continue to improve as the Browns face another strong defensive team this coming Sunday.
- We've said it before and will certainly say it again: OLB Kamerion Wimbley is a tease. Wimbley simply does not have enough ammo in his arsenal to beat the better LT's in the game. Unfortunately for the Browns, this defense has to blitz and expose itself to get pressure on the QB.
- Kudos to LB D'Qwell Jackson and S Brodney Pool, who returned after missing the opener due to a concussion. Pool played well in run support and was active in coverage. Jackson played sideline to sideline and was effective filling the gap.