Behind Enemy Lines: Cleveland Browns Part 1

An inside look at the New England Patriots' opponent fo rweek 5 in the Cleveland Browns. Patriots Insider asks a long time Browns reporter about the team, how injuries have impacted the season, Willie McGinest's contributions and much more.

Patriots Insider: The Browns have managed to crawl back into contention for the division after beating both Cincinnati and Baltimore. What is the impression out there of the team's success? Is it just luck, or are the Browns really pretty good?

BARRY MCBRIDE: The Browns have displayed a powerful offense so far in 2007. The pieces accumulated over the years have finally come together, thanks in no small part to the team's investment in the offensive line with the signing of Eric Steinbach and drafting Joe Thomas. The line gives Anderson time, and with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow healthier than they've been in past years, the Browns quarterback is able to make plays. The team's offensive prowess has allowed them to compensate for a questionable defense, which has significant problems on the defensive line.

PI: How have injuries impacted the Cleveland Roster?

BM: The team has had good fortune with injuries so far this year, and may even get Gary Baxter and LeCharles Bentley back later this season. The Browns are due a relatively injury-free year, as they have been stung by severe injuries to key components for the last several seasons.

PI: Joshua Cribbs is having an amazing season as a kick returner. Is it Cribbs or have the Browns always been decent on special teams and Cribbs just gives them an added dimension?

BM: It's a sign not only of Cribbs elusive and fearless running style, but of the general improvement in the Browns roster. As Phil Savage has strengthened the bottom third of the roster, the Browns have seen better performance by both their return and coverage units. Cribbs is a special player who may add a dimension to the team's offense before the year is out, but recent additions like Dave Zastudil have been a key part of special teams. Watch for Cribbs on punt coverage as well... he gives as good as he gets.

PI: What is Willie McGinest's role with the Browns now, and has he been much of a factor for their defense since joining the team?

BM: McGinest has been frequently injured, but when he's on the field he contributes far more than you will see in the defensive statistics. The team's better defensive performance against the Ravens was attributed partially to McGinest's presence, as he helps keep the team focused and positioned properly when he's in the huddle. McGinest also provides help on running plays, an area of significant need for the Browns. The praise that he gets for his leadership from Crennel and defensive teammates indicates that he's a key part of the team's defense when he's healthy.

PI: What's the biggest area of concern for Cleveland heading into their game Sunday against the Patriots?

BM: Stopping the run. The Browns have significant problems on their defensive line with the aging Ted Washington and Orpheus Roye not playing at the level they achieved previously in their careers. Contributing to this has been less-than-dynamic play from the Browns interior linebackers Andra Davis and D'Qwell Jackson, the latter of whom has had some trouble shedding blocks. As a result, opposing team's feature backs have averaged more than five yards a carry against them since the pre-season. It's impossible to win consistently in the NFL until that number changes. The Browns two wins have been largely due to the team's offense either outscoring the opposition (Bengals) or jumping out to an early lead, which took away the opponents ability to run (Ravens).

Barry McBride is the editor-in-chief of the The Orange and Brown Report (, the Cleveland Browns affiliate on the network.

Be sure not to miss Part 2 of this inside look at the Patriots' next opponent.

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