In 2004, an overtime loss to the Eagles triggered the end of the Butch Davis era in Cleveland. An appearance on Monday Night Football in Philadelphia could very easily become the final chapter in the Romeo Crennel era as well.
However, this Browns team has shown up for their primetime games thus far, and Monday is likely to be no different.
The Eagles are in a tight race for the final NFC Wild Card spot, but they need to win to keep the pressure on the Falcons and Cowboys. The Browns should be thinking of next year while trying to gain playing time for their younger players, but that appears unlikely as Romeo is sticking with his veteran players as he searches for a win.
Browns Offense vs. Eagles Defense
With both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson on injured reserve, the Browns turned to Ken Dorsey last week. His performance, however, has many fans wishing to see more of return ace and former college quarterback Joshua Cribbs under center. Cribbs has both the mobility and the arm to, at the very least, stretch out the Eagles' defense. He may not be the answer, but, after seeing Dorsey against the banged up secondary of the Titans, it might be best to keep Cribbs in mind if the Browns' offense needs a spark.
This Eagles secondary is arguably the best in football with corners Sheldon Brown, Asante Samuel and Lito Sheppard coming off the bench. This group is cable of playing the Browns receivers 1-on-1 throughout the contest. Safeties Quintin Mikell and Brian Dawkins provide excellent support in the run game as well as in the deep support. This allows the Eagles' front seven the opportunity to be very creative with their blitz packages, and no one is more creative than defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Ken Dorsey will have a difficult time advancing the ball through the air against this group.
Up front, DT Brodrick Buckley is becoming one of the best unknown defensive linemen in the league. Earlier in his career, he would often take himself out of position by becoming too aggressive and somewhat reckless; now, he is showing patience and a willingness to hold his ground. He can still get into the backfield when needed, but his ability to play the run is one of the reasons this Eagles defense is so very dominant.
The Browns' run game has been of little help. Jamal Lewis appears to have hit that proverbial wall which marks the end of great careers. The offensive line could have done a better job this season, but Jamal has simply left too many yards on the field with hesitation and lack of burst. Backup RB Jerome Harrison is nursing a rib injury and is likely to be absent from Monday's contest.
Injuries to starting offensive guard Rex Hadnot, and also TE Kellen Winslow, isn't likely to help the Browns' situation at all. With Winslow out, it may allow for rookie TE Martin Rucker to gain valuable playing time.
If the Browns are to have any chance at victory, wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Braylon Edwards must have a terrific game. This will not be easy with Dorsey's limitations at quarterback while also facing the Eagles' secondary. However, they very well may be the Browns' best chance. The receiving duo will need to make hay by making big plays with the run after catch.
Browns Defense vs. Eagles Offense
No player in this league may be more valuable than Eagles RB Brian Westbrook. Westbrook does everything for the Eagles' offense. He is a terrific receiver out of the backfield. He not only has great speed and elusiveness, but he is also a very physical running back despite his lack of size. When he is in the game, the Eagles' offense simply plays at a different pace.
When the Eagles struggled, QB Donovan McNabb took the majority of the heat from the press as well as from the fan base. Despite the criticism, McNabb remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league today. The problem the Eagles have is limited investment in receiving options for their prolific quarterback.
This year, they made a wise investment in second-round receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson is one of the most dynamic young receivers in the game today. He has incredible speed combined with great balance and quickness. At just 5-10 and 175lbs., Jackson has brought a new excitement to the Eagles' offense.
The Browns' defense must contend with the Eagles' Big Three with sure tackling. The Eagles make their living from opponent's missed tackles. McNabb will use the missed tackle to scramble and unload deep down the field. Jackson and Westbrook are capable of taking it the distance with every possession and their big plays seem to come from a missed
For the Browns to pressure McNabb and slow down Westbrook in the running game, they will need NT Shaun Rogers and DE Corey Williams to have a special game. Rogers will be going against C Jamaal Jackson. Jackson is very quick despite his size, and this should be the most exciting match up of the day. Injuries have depleted the talented right side of the offensive line for the Eagles, and Corey Williams must take advantage of this situation.
LB D'Qwell Jackson is coming into his own as an NFL linebacker. He, along with Rogers, deserves to be invited to the Pro Bowl. Jackson leads the league in tackles, and is also terrific in pass defense. Jackson, however, needs the big, physical linebacker to stand as his counterpart in the middle. Rookie Beau Bell was drafted to be that counterpart but has yet to see his first action.
The Browns must play press coverage on the outside to disrupt the timing of McNabb and his receivers. WR Kevin Curtis is a terrific timing receiver and, with the speedy Jackson, you must bump them out of their routes and make McNabb wait for something to develop. The longer you make him wait, the more likely he is to make the errant throw.