It felt a lot better watching the Browns win last week against the Titans than it did watching them lose the week before. The team took baby steps forward, making improvements in several key areas:
Perhaps most importantly, the Browns committed significantly fewer penalties last week. As an emerging team that is expected to fight a number of highly contested battles this season, the Browns cannot afford to give up yards, possession, or points to penalties. Somewhat surprisingly, however, LG Joel Bitonio has accrued the most penalties on the team so far this season, with three in just two games. This is an area where I hope to see the sophomore improve tomorrow against the Raiders, so he can continue to build on last year’s excellent rookie season. Baby steps.
Statistically, the Browns also improved in ball security last week. The Browns forced three turnovers and committed none. This was a huge improvement over the previous week, when the Browns committed five turnovers, with one negating their only takeaway of the game. Statistics can be misleading, however. Just like the week before, Johnny Manziel fumbled the ball twice against the Titans. Fortunately, the Browns were able to recover the football following both fumbles. But this cannot continue. While Manziel showed significant improvement from week one, he must MUST learn to protect the football better, especially when he leaves the pocket, or he will continue to be the Browns number two guy. Baby steps.
From the first play of the game, the Browns defense looked much better last week. The defense kicked off the game with a big tackle by CB K’Waun Williams and a hit on Mariota by OLB Paul Kruger. The defense would continue to terrorize the Titans rookie QB throughout the game, hitting Mariota ten more times and sacking him a whopping seven. This, by the way, was my personal favorite:
That’s right. On one play, Mariota lost his shoe, his helmet, and the ball, all courtesy of Paul Kruger and DL John Hughes. It was glorious. But while the quarterback pressure was much MUCH better, and the secondary play was improved, the run defense is still not anywhere near where it needs to be. After two games, the Browns are right back where they were last season: dead last against the run, allowing 160 rushing yards per game. Baby steps.
One man who refuses to take baby steps, however, is WR Travis Benjamin aka The Rabbit. This dude is taking giant leaps and bounds–all over the football field and into the endzone. Going into tomorrow’s game, Benjamin leads the league in yards per catch, averaging 34. More impressively, he is currently tied with Rob Gronkowski for most touchdowns in the league with four–three receiving and one on a 78-yard punt return. For the return TD and more, he was awarded AFC Special Teams Player of the Week last week. Apparently, there will be no baby steps for The Rabbit.
Everyone else should try to keep up. Lots more baby steps perhaps. Maybe even a leap or two.