Browns-Lions: Greg's Game Preview

What to look for as 1-8 teams collide (smush? stumble into each other?) in Detroit's Ford Field...

The Detroit Lions have one victory to their credit in the last 25 games.  They were considered the worst team in football as they went winless in 2008 but the Eric Mangini-led Cleveland Browns has taken the "worst team" title from Detroit and are now looking to become the worst team in the history of the National Football League.

Lion fans, have patience with your new head coach Jim Schwartz.  He is the right man for this job and he will have the Lions at the top of the division if you give him time.  Jim has put together a terrific staff highlighted by two former head coaches who are known for more than being excellent coaches, as both are great teachers. 

Browns Fans do not give up hope.  You have an owner that wants to see a winning football team every bit as bad as we you do.  The majority of the football world believed Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage was the dream team that would take the Browns to the next level.  Randy listened, and no one should fault him for buying into that hype. 

The Browns lacked discipline and Eric Mangini was a successful coach whose philosophy was built upon having a disciplined football team.   Mangini has failed due to mistakes which could have and should have been avoided.  No one is at fault except for Eric Mangini.  Randy has given each regime every chance to find success.

This season is a total disaster but, in the future, we will probably look back at this season as the turning point of the Browns.  The Browns had to hit the very bottom in order for the right changes to take place.  A small amount of success and the pattern likely continues but this glorious catastrophe has opened all eyes to the true root of the problem and now the foundation for long-term success is likely to be laid.

Browns Offense vs. Lions Defense

Romeo Crennel had the UFO defense. Brian Daboll has the UFB offense.  I found myself laughing at the Browns offense during Monday Night Football.  Fifteen days to prepare for the Ravens defense whose glaring weakness is the deep ball.  Brian Daboll, in his infinite wisdom, decided to slow that dynamic pass rush by using every wide receiver screen known to man.  I cannot wait to see what he comes up with this week as he faces Gunther Cunningham's stop-the-run-at-all-costs defense. 

Quarterback Brady Quinn has little confidence in the offensive line to protect him and it appears as if he has no confidence in the play calling as well.  This is very understandable as the Browns offensive play calling is unimaginative at best and foolish at worst.  The Browns have no chance for success with this current scheme.  Both Peyton Manning nor Tom Brady would fail miserably if they had to run this playbook.

The Lions defensive front four will be overhauled in the upcoming draft, especially at the tackle positions.  Fortunately, for the Lions, this should be one of the best defensive tackle classes in the last twenty years.  Unfortunately, they are stuck with what they have for the remainder of this year and that means they must continue to overload with their linebackers and safeties to stop the run.  That often leaves the defensive backs in a one on one situation.

The overachieving group of defensive backs has improved throughout the year.  They have become more physical with using their hands to disrupt routes.  They are better at tackling and they are better in coverage.  William James and Philip Buchanon have stepped up their games and are on pace for the best seasons of their careers.   KO Simpson has gone from draft bust with the Bills to reviving his career with the Lions as his game has matured; especially over the last three weeks.

The strength of the defense is at linebacker with Julian Peterson, Ernie Sims and Larry Foote.  This group is quick, hard hitters that rarely get themselves out of position.  When Ernie Sims is healthy, this is an entirely different defense. Fortunately for the Browns, Sims is listed as being out for this game.

Lions Offense vs. Browns Offense

The Lions offense is coming together nicely as they continue to add pieces to the puzzle.  Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford has one of the better arms in the game today.  He is going through normal rookie growing pains as he struggles to adapt to the pro game but he is progressing.  His progression would go faster if his offensive line was playing better.

The Lions offensive line has allowed 62 hits on the quarterback and 29 sacks.  Individual talent is there with this line but they are not a cohesive unit.  At other times, they are a great run-blocking group.   Sometimes, they provide solid pass protection but the consistency and timing is not there. 

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson may be the best college receiver than I have ever seen.  I believe Calvin can bring that same level of play to the pro game as the talent improves around him.  When he is on his game, he is virtually unstoppable but he can be taken out of the game completely, if you can keep the ball away from him early in the contest.

Kevin Smith was a steal for the Lions as he is capable of becoming one of the best backs in the league.  The offensive line simply has failed to open holes with any consistency and he is fighting to prevent a loss of yards instead of a gain of yards.  With a little help from the line, Kevin Smith following former Brown Terrelle Smith is a nice combination to have in the backfield.

The Browns defense, despite horrible statistics, is playing some good football even though they are covering for the worst offense in the history of football.  Rob Ryan has his side of the ball motivated and as I watch the player's response to their leader, you cannot help but notice that he is their leader.  This group will not quit on Rob and that is a special quality. 

It is really a shame to see so many players giving their all for a team that is giving them nothing.  Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley is having his best year as a Brown.  Just a year ago most believed he had become yet another Browns draft day bust but under Rob Ryan, he has been reborn.  What is truly impressive with his pressures and five sacks is the fact that the Browns never have a lead to where teams are forced to pass. 

Robaire Smith and Shaun Rogers are also having terrific seasons.  Rogers's last trip to Detroit was met with a chorus of boos.  He responded by taking over the game early.   Again, this unit is playing hard; they should not be rewarded with misery. 

Without Eric Barton and D'Qwell Jackson, the Browns linebacker corps has become a much more physical group.  D'Qwell is a terrific player but if the Browns are to stay with the 3-4 defense, Jackson is one of the few players with trade value that may also be expendable.  Jackson and Maiava is an intriguing combo however, if the Browns go back to the 4-3. 

The real challenge for Sunday's contest is Calvin Johnson facing off against the Browns best corner in Eric Wright.  Calvin has the size but Wright seems to be at his best when facing top-notch competition.  It may be wise to move Calvin around and try to match him up against the Brandon McDonald who tends to give up one big play per game.


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