Browns vs. Jaguars
Sunday at 4 pm, the 2-4 Cleveland Browns will visit the 3-3 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Browns and Jaguars were picked by many to win their respective divisions but, after six games, a wildcard slot is the best either team should hope for. The Jags are improving each week as they have won three of their last four contests and, coming off of a bye week, they should be ready for the Browns.
The Jags offense does one thing well and that is run the football, but even running the football has not been easy this year. The Jaguar offensive line has been decimated with injuries. OT Maurice Williams and OG Vince Manuwai were lost for the season while C Brad Meester should return to action this week. Meester is the glue for this line but he will have his hands full as he faces Browns NT Shaun Rodgers.
Pass protection is also an issue for the Jaguars line. Tony Pashos is a tremendous run blocker but his pass protection is suspect. The lack of chemistry has not allowed QB David Garrard time to get comfortable in the pocket.
When Garrard has time, the receivers have been a huge disappointment. Receivers Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson were brought in to help the pass offense but have yet to make even a small impact. When the Jags need a catch they depend on TE Mercedes Lewis and WR Matt Jones, although Jones is facing a suspension. Lewis is a big, physical tight end that excels in blocking and that makes him even more dangerous in the passing game. Jones has a nice combination of size and speed that few in the NFL can match. He will be a difficult challenge for the Browns secondary.
First and foremost, the Browns must stop the run if they are to have any success against the Jaguars. RB Fred Taylor brings a wealth of experience as he only needs just 43 yards to break 11,000 yards for his career; however, Taylor isn't the dominating back he once was. Maurice Jones-Drew makes up the difference and then some. Jones-Drew is small, fast and incredibly physical. He also possesses excellent hands receiving the ball and is currently second on the team in receptions. He may be the most dynamic player in football when you factor in all the things this young man brings to the table.
The Browns must also be aware of David Garrard's ability to run with the football. He already has 30 rushing attempts on the year and he is more comfortable running than throwing. He does have a tendency to hang the ball out when he runs and that leads to fumbles.
The Browns defense has improved dramatically as the season has progressed thanks to a more aggressive approach to playcalling. The Browns are 7th in points allowed and the same in pass defense.
The corner tandem of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald has been sensational. S Brodney Pool has finally come into his own as a safety and, with S Sean Jones returning to the field, this is a very formidable secondary. The weakness is in the nickel which has given up most of the yards and touchdown receptions this year.
The Browns run defense has been horrendous to this point. The lack of physicality with the interior linebackers has been exactly as predicted, with the only difference being that the defensive line is no longer being used as an excuse. In fact, the play of the defensive line has been one of the bright spots for this defense. The sad part is that when all three defensive linemen have forced the double team, the linebackers are still making tackles ten yards downfield.
The play of the outside linebackers hasn't been what the Browns expected either. Rookie Alex Hall continues to impress with his speed and knack for putting pressure on the quarterback, but at times his inexperience does show. Willie McGinest is running in quicksand, while Kamerion Wimbley remains buried in his sophomore slump.
For the Browns defense, this is a game that will test their manhood. Shaun Rogers is playing like a man amongst boys. It is time for the remainder of the front seven to take on some of his attitude and passion because the Jaguars will be hitting them in the mouth for four quarters of physical football.
The Jags defense is anchored by one of the best interior linemen in the game today. John Henderson is a fierce run stuffer that engulfs running backs. At 6-7 and nearly 350 lbs. John is surprisingly quick off the snap. He will present a difficult matchup for the Browns offensive line. The one thing the front four is lacking is a consistent pass rush. They just aren't able to get there on a consistent basis.
The Jags linebacker corps is a speedy but physical group. They are also a young group that is making progress but simply aren't there yet. Watching the Jags defense, they have a tendency for hesitation in reading and reacting to what they are seeing in front of them. The difference in that half a second of reaction time can often be a 50 yard gain instead of no gain.
The Jags have an outstanding secondary. Second year safety Reggie Nelson is one of the best young up and coming safeties in the game today. He has range, he plays the run and his instincts for the passing game are improving on a week-to-week basis. He will be a star in this league as he matures.
Drayton Florence and Rashean Mathis are physical corners with excellent cover skills. They are at their best when they can get their hands on the receiver and redirect his routes. They do have a tendency to look into the backfield, and if the pass rush isn't getting there that can be a nightmare situation for any corner. Look for the Browns to challenge this group with some early quick routes as they set them up for the double-move deep. It will be an interesting chess match on Sunday.
The Browns offense is steadily imploding. The lack of consistency from quarterback Derek Anderson will continue to bleed down throughout this unit. I believe part of the reason for Kellen Winslow's going public was a direct result of this struggling offense. Frustration is starting to boil over. We saw it with Edwards on the sideline a few weeks ago and with Derek grandstanding in his confrontation with FB Lawrence Vickers a week ago. Leadership is lacking.
There is simply too much talent on the offensive side of the ball for the Browns to be struggling the way they are. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is taking heat due to the inept play of the quarterback but, when a quarterback can't dump the ball down to a wide open running back, play calling is not the issue.
Anderson has the arm and when he is hot, there isn't a better quarterback in this league, but the same can be said for all of those one-hit wonder quarterbacks that appear in the NFL every other year or two. The quarterback position is all about consistency and leadership. Anderson has shown neither trait.
As for the offense, if Anderson is hot the Browns can do whatever they want against the Jaguars defense. If Derek is having another performance like last week, he will get his receivers killed and also kill the Browns chances for a wildcard this year. At this point, it is really that simple.
Romeo Crennel was the perfect coach to carry the Browns through the rough waters of rebuilding but his time has passed. He is a horrible in-game coach right up there with Mike Martz. His personnel decisions are mind boggling. This team has no sense of time management and is completely lost in a two-minute drill. At some point, he must be held responsible for the decisions that he makes. Another coordinator falling on the sword isn't going to solve the issues surrounding this team. It is time for change not only at the quarterback, but also the man who continues to play said quarterback.