The 0-4 Cleveland Browns travel to Buffalo to face the 1-3 Bills. The Browns after the first three weeks appeared to be by far the worst team in football - which includes the CFL, NCAA and the local Pee-Wee league. After the week four overtime loss to the Bengals, the Browns are growing in confidence and chemistry.
The start to the Bills season looked promising but over the last two weeks the Bills have suffered significant injuries and the level of play has decreased dramatically. Injuries happen but injuries are viewed as just another excuse by most fans of the Bills.
Bills fans are a patient lot but they do expect to see a competitive team that is taking steps forward. Pressure is mounting and head coach Dick Jauron appears to now be on that short list of coaches on the hot seat.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini may very well be on the hot seat as well. He has taken a big chance in replacing not only Kellen Winslow but also Braylon Edwards. Whether you love Mangini or hate him, you have to respect him. He is doing this his way and placing the word "TEAM" above all else and slowly removing the "me first philosophy."
The Edwards deal is one trade in which everyone wins. Braylon is now with a very competitive team that was in need of his services. The Browns received two draft picks and two players for someone that was not going to be a Brown in 2010. He was not happy as a Brown and never would have been. Browns fans were tired or his meltdowns and just wanted to move on.
Browns Offense vs. Bills Defense
Quarterback Derek Anderson breathed life into the struggling Browns offense one week ago but Derek is becoming one of the worst crunch time quarterbacks in the history of Cleveland Browns football. Derek struggles with both time management and decision making. Derek has the God-given talent but until he makes a transformation from the guy who doesn't want to lose the game to the guy that is going to win the game, he is nothing more than a backup quarterback with a great arm.
Now before everyone wants to pile on the hate train, neither Brady Quinn nor Derek Anderson is a finished product. Quinn will learn from this benching the way Anderson has. Anderson's dump-down pass is much improved although he does give away the screen pass too early. Anderson is doing a better job of reading the defense instead of locking down on his intended target. He has a ways to go but he can be special, especially if he can become the master of the two minute drill.
Part of the problem for Derek is that there aren't a lot of crunch-time weapons for him to go to on offense. Running back Jamal Lewis wants the ball at the end of games but after seeing Jerome Harrison run last week, Jamal may be on the path to becoming a short-yardage back while Jerome becomes the feature. Jerome also put on one heck of a display of blitz pickup one week ago. He has worked hard and it has paid off for the young man. Also, rookie Chris Jennings looks like he belongs in the backfield. Running back may not be the position of weakness that many of us believed.
Mohamed Massaquoi shredded the Bengals secondary and could be even better against the depleted secondary of the Buffalo Bills. Mo has it all. He has the great size at 6-2 and around 210 pounds. He has great speed throughout his route. He runs hard into the break and even harder out of the break. He is fearless over the middle. His route running has gone from pretty good to excellent and most importantly, he is holding onto the football.
Now the Browns just have to find someone to go opposite the rookie and it looks like Chansi Stuckey could get the shot this week. Stuckey is a good route runner that is willing to go over the middle. I have to admit I am eager to see if the rookie Brian Robiskie can challenge for that number two position as well.
For those of you that believed the King of Dropsy was no longer residing in Cleveland thanks to the departure of Braylon Edwards, a new King of Dropsy has emerged. Tight end Robert Royal would be having a Pro Bowl type of year if he would just hold on to the football. Dropping any pass is bad but Royal is a drive killer as he is dropping what would be first down plays. The talent is obviously there but he will no longer be an option the quarterback will look for unless he improves.
For the first time this year, I saw something amazing develop one week ago with the Browns offensive line. This line is coming together and showing chemistry. Hank Fraley appears to be a terrific fit at right guard as he and rookie Alex Mack are working well together. It's a man-up system but they are using a bit of zone technique to shield and allow those creases for Jerome Harrison. They will however have their hands full this week with Marcus Stroud, one of the best interior linemen in the game today.
The Bills defense is a walking mash unit. They can either load up or stop the run while giving up the pass or they can zone and give up the run. It doesn't appear if they have the personnel to defend both at this juncture.
Marcus Stroud sets the tone for this defense. He would be better if he had some of those key players around him healthy, such as linebacker Paul Poslusny. Paul is a huge missing piece to the puzzle. He brings attitude and intelligence to the table. He is the big thumper that this defense needs. Giving up nearly 500 yards on the ground in the last two weeks isn't what anyone expected from this defense.
When you start looking at the secondary for the Bills it is even more banged up than the front seven with three of four starting defensive backs either out or playing injured. This group better be on their toes because the Browns will be challenging them deep early and often especially if the Browns have early success against the run.
Bills Offense vs. Browns Defense
The Bills are living proof of what to expect when you do not have a quality offensive line. The good news for the Bills is that Demetrius Bell should be healthy enough to go this week. The bad news is that Bell isn't a savior. This is a bad line and why you never allow pro bowl caliber left tackles to leave as long as they are productive. The Bills made that mistake and they are paying for it.
Quarterback Trent Edwards is more than capable of leading this franchise especially with the weapons he has at receiver and running back but he can not lead this team anywhere when he is face down in the dirt. Trent has a decent arm and he throws a pretty good deep ball when he has time.
This is one terrific set of receivers that are being wasted. Top to bottom with Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and Steve Johnson this is a great group of playmakers. Receivers need time to gain separation and without the line holding, the receivers aren't able to get open before the quarterback is getting nailed in the backfield. Even when he Edwards does have time, he is starting to look for the defender instead of the receiver.
Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson form a nice one two punch at running back but teams are loading up to stop the run with a run blitz towards the quarterback philosophy. Until the passing game shows that they can punish teams for stacking the box, don't look for anything to change. If either back finds a seam they can knock off large chunks in a hurry.
The Browns Defense is starting to put it together as well and we are seeing a defensive leader emerge. If D'Qwell Jackson was on any other team he would be the talk of the NFL for his outstanding play. D'Qwell seems to be involved in every single play on defense. He is either making the play or a half a second away from making the play. I am seeing the defense rally around the young linebacker as he embraces the leadership role.
Another player that is coming into his own is Corey Williams. The big defensive lineman is playing arguably the best football of his career. Corey is getting penetration and forcing plays into the arms of other defenders. His stats may not show it but he is doing a terrific job.
Nose tackle Shaun Rogers is simply amazing. The big man blocked two kicks last week and he is just now starting to look like the force he is known to be. If Williams and Rogers can get push up the middle, the Browns will have a good day against the Bills. This will prevent Trent Edwards from being able to step up and also force Lynch and Jackson to run off tackle instead of up the gut where they are at their best.
Lee Evans and Terrell Owens are big fast physical receivers and it will be up to Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright to get them off their routes early. The Browns corners must be able to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage. If u can take Terrell out of the game early, he will become frustrated and take himself out of the game but if you allow him to get off to a quick start it will be a long day.
Look for defensive coordinator to dial up every single blitz known to mankind on Sunday. The Bills offensive line is struggling especially with speed rushers coming off the edge against their slow footed tackles. Outside linebackers Alex Hall and Kamerion Wimbley should have a great day against the tackles like Jon Scott and former Browns Kirk Chambers.