The Broncos as well as the Browns are coming off of very disappointing losses. The Broncos however sit atop their division despite losing 3 straight, while the Browns are 3 games behind the Steelers and 2 games back in a tight wildcard race. The Browns are not out of the race with 8 games remaining but the wiggle room is gone and the Broncos do not want to lose 4 straight.
It has been a disappointing year for what was considered the strength of the Browns, the offense. The offense of the Browns has played but one complete game all year, that being against the Giants. Someone had to take the fall for the poor offensive performance and QB Derek Anderson drew the short straw.
This move was the right move on many levels. It was a great public relations move. Instead of spending the week talking about the Browns' meltdown against Baltimore, everyone is talking about what QB Brady Quinn will bring to the offense. It will also place the inexperienced QB in a home environment against a shaky defense. Ordinarily a coach would prefer to give the inexperienced quarterback extra time to prepare for his debut but, with injuries mounting across the board against Denver, it was smart to make the decision this week.
I do not expect a great deal of change within the offensive scheme with Quinn at the helm. In fact the Browns should be able to open up the play book a bit more. Brady lacks the arm strength of Anderson but he possesses more than adequate arm strength to get the job done.
What Brady does bring to the table is decision-making and, hopefully, consistency. Brady is better with the short game, throwing slants, screens and crossing patterns but he can still work the mid to deep part of the field.
In order for Quinn to have success, those around the young quarterback must step up their game. The poor route running and dropped passes must come to an end. The Browns must also improve their rushing attack. Jamal Lewis is struggling but the Broncos' poor run defense could be the pill to cure the Browns rushing ills.
The Broncos safeties are not very good in coverage and this is a perfect opportunity to use the tight ends to get things going for the Browns. Whether it's Steve Heiden, Kellen Winslow or Martin Rucker, there is a mismatch going to be created every single time they face the secondary of the Broncos.
I see a lot of young talent like LB D. J. Williams and undrafted linebacker Wesley Woodyard being groomed on this Broncos team.
Woodyard has tremendous instincts for the position and he will compete for a starting position next year; he should see more playing time as this season progresses.
DT Dwayne Robinson is a core-type of player and everyone seems to forget he is only 26 years old. DT Marcus Thomas has huge upside and improves every time out. DE Elvis Dumerville is a sensational pass rusher although very undersized. Add another edge rusher a you have the makings of a solid front 4.
Sadly for this one however, Champ is not going to be out there and there are just too many holes in this defense. As a unit, they do not play good team defense. The safeties provide very little help to the corners. The linebackers are not flowing to the ball even when the defensive line is holding its ground.
It could be a long and painful day for the Broncos defense if they allow Jamal Lewis to get into the second level the way they have allowed opponents in the last 4 games.
The Broncos have the best young QB/WR tandem in football today with QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall. The Broncos also have a talented offensive line that has mastered the Denver zone blocking scheme. The only thing holding this group back is the typical Denver running back to keep teams honest. Facing the Browns horrible run defense is likely to help the poor run game of the Broncos.
Cutler is a gunslinger. There is no throw that he cannot make and that is what makes him special; but, it's also what makes him a danger. He has the great arm and he makes quick reads but defenses are sliding their coverage into those hot routes and that has given Cutler nightmares. He reads blitz, throws and the linebacker has dropped back into the route. Look for the Browns to mix up their defense in an attempt to confuse Cutler.
In this contest, look for the Broncos to use Marshall as the slot receiver. The Browns do not have a nickel corner that can cover an average receiver but their young corners on the outside are capable of sticking with Marshall. Moving him to the slot will force the Browns to cover him with a safety, nickel or ask CB Brandon McDonald or CB Eric Wright to follow him from the slot. The latter situation generally creates confusion and leaves the outside extremely vulnerable. This is a very difficult match-up for the Browns.
The Browns defense suffered a tremendous setback against the Ravens.
This defense went from outstanding to horrible against a rookie QB and a rookie RB with the team's best receiver inactive.
S Sean Jones was a shadow of himself last week and his play hurt the Browns throughout the contest. He was horrible in run support and he gave little help over the top. Neither the Browns nor Jones can afford a repeat performance.
Part two of why the Browns looked so horrible was once again LB Andra Davis. Rookie LB Beau Bell may not be fully healthy, and he may not have mastered the 3-4 scheme but could he possibly be any worse than what we saw on Sunday? The Brady chants worked, maybe its time for the Beau chants to begin.
If the Browns are to win this one, part of what will get them there is blitzing from various positions. "They must keep the young quarterback guessing. Challenge the Broncos to prove that they can run the football. Get after the quarterback and be physical with the receivers.
This defense simply is not effective when it is passive but when they are aggressive the level of play increases. The intensity increases and most importantly, this defense is inspired to play as they feed off of each successful play.