Browns-Packers: Greg's Game Preview

What to look for as the pass-happy Packers try to out-do the Steelers in Cleveland...

This group of Browns may not be capable of catching a cold but apparently, they are capable of catching the flu.  The Browns have been devastated by the flu and although most players should be ready to play on Sunday, you have to wonder how much it will affect them.  Keeping the players hydrated may be the biggest challenge the Browns face this week besides a relentless Packers passing attack.

The Green Bay Packers exposed and embarrassed the Cleveland Browns in preseason.  They will be looking for a repeat performance on Sunday.  The Browns are struggling at 1-5 and although this team looks truly hopeless, there is hope for a victory on Sunday.

Browns Offense vs. Packers Defense

Derek Anderson has completely reverted to the old DA that we love to hate.  He is locking onto his intended targets to early and then throwing the ball wide of the target or to the defender.  His pre snap reads are also disappointing as he is failing to recognize where the single coverage is and who is being doubled.  He is also trying to kill receivers with his short throws.  The one positive is it is about time for the good DA to show up and tease fans once again with great play at the quarterback position.

I do not know about most fans but I am already tired of hearing the drop ball excuse.  It was true that the Browns were plagued with drops in Buffalo but last week many of those passes that are now being reported as drops, were passes that few players would be able to bring down.  The receivers have to do a better job but the coaches and quarterback can help to give them that confidence.

Now for the Browns to have success against this aggressive Packer defense, they will need to spread the Packers out with multi-receiver formations.  Come in with a game plan to throw this ball all over the field and let your receivers know that you have confidence in them.  

What the Packers want to do defensively is create havoc upfront by attacking with speed and overloading the offensive line.  The Browns are simply not capable of blocking everyone because they are going to send more defenders than you have blockers.  They also know the Browns are horrible at using the screen pass to slow down that aggression as the Browns look like they have never ran a screen pass before in their life.  

The Browns also struggle running the ball and they simply do not have a home run hitter in the backfield.  Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis can have big gains but they are not going to beat you.  This fact will make the Packers even more aggressive.  

The Browns rookie tandem at receiver consists of Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie.  They should find themselves on an island against two of the best corners in the game today with Al Harris and Charles Woodson.  Single coverage must be attacked both early and often, no matter who is at corner.  Also, do not be afraid to use your other options at receiver and abandon the tight end position in this game.  

If you need to chip the ends, allow the running backs to do so.  Putting center/guard Hank Fraley at tight end was a huge mistake a week ago and it will have no benefit this week either.  It really did not make a lot of sense and just added fuel to the fire when it comes to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

When the Packers bring the heat with their seven and eight man fronts, the Browns have to know what to do with the football.  Last week when the Steelers brought pressure, the Browns folded with fumbles, sacks and horrible passes. This week the Packers send a tremendous amount of speed at the Browns.

Packers outside linebacker Clay Mathews is becoming a fan favorite with his hustle and relentless attitude, those same attributes made his father a legend in Cleveland.  This will be a very good learning experience for Clay as he faces arguably the best left tackle in the game today in Browns left tackle Joe Thomas.  

Another name Browns fans have a lot of love for is AJ Hawk.  Hawk is improving with each contest as he is becoming more comfortable in the 3-4 defense of the Packers.  Early on, he was very hesitant and was slow to fill the gap but he is starting to show signs of why he was so coveted coming out of college.  He is the big hitter in the middle that this defense desperately needs.

Browns Defense vs. Packers Offense

The Browns were arguably the worst defensive team in football before linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was lost for the season.  Jackson's loss is huge, especially against the run but after viewing what Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing attack did to the Browns; do not expect a great number of runs this week.  This pass happy offense will be throwing it around for sixty minutes.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers must avoid Mr. Shaun Rogers of the Browns this week.  Aaron has lost confidence in his offensive line.  When a quarterback does not trust his blind side protection, he ends up looking backside instead of looking downfield and that has happened to Aaron Rodgers.  To make matters worse, this line is allowing push up the middle.

Blindside pressure combined with pressure up the middle is a nightmare situation for any quarterback.  With tackle Chad Clifton likely out this week along with starting center Jason Spitz, it is worse case scenario for Aaron Rodgers but best-case scenario for this Browns defense especially if nose tackle Shaun Rogers and outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley are healthy enough to go on Sunday.  These are winnable match ups for the Browns and a true test of the Browns defense.

If the Browns struggle to get to the quarterback, then receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver will have career days against this struggling Browns secondary.  Browns corner Brandon McDonald seems to have forgotten how to tackle and he is allowing huge runs after the catch.  His play has been downright embarrassing and he is certain to be a target of the Packers.  If you allow Driver and Jennings to catch and run, it is a touchdown every time.

Keeping tight end Donald Lee in check is just as important as containing the receiver corps.  The Browns do not have a linebacker capable of covering Lee and Lee is too physical for a safety.  Rob Ryan must find a way to scheme Lee out of this game.

Bottom Line

This game is setting up to become heavy on throws and lots of blitzing by both teams.  Either the Browns will get to the quarterback or they will get beat deep.  The Packers will either get to the quarterback early or allow this underachieving unit to grow in confidence.

The biggest threat for the Browns is return ace Joshua Cribbs and the special teams unit for the Browns.  Cribbs has outperformed his contract and deserves to be paid accordingly.  Dragging this out only intensifies the negative feeling of players towards the Browns.

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