This past week I went back and watched both the Raiders and Chargers games. I took the week before off because I was just too bummed after the Raiders game to write a post. Anyway, not far into the Raiders game I noticed that, through the TV broadcast, I could hear fans chanting for Johnny Manziel. They were doing this even after failed run plays. (If this makes sense to any of you, please feel free to explain it to me. I was lost. The TV announcers also appeared confused by this, but I digress.) I decided that it was important in this post to set out some simple (though likely unpopular) statements about the Browns that actually reflect reality.
Here’s the first one: The Browns’ biggest problem isn’t their quarterback. Last week in San Diego, Josh McCown threw for 356 yards. He finished the game with 0 turnovers, 2 touchdowns and a 2-pt. conversion, a 78% completion percentage, and a passer rating of 119.1. He wasn’t quite as good against the Raiders, but he still threw for 341 yards and 2 touchdowns. Yes, he also threw an interception in that game. Yes, it was a horrible throw. But all quarterbacks throw interceptions. (Not an excuse, just a fact.) And all quarterbacks are more likely to throw them when they are under pressure and trying to come from behind at the end of the game to save their team. (Which McCown wasn’t supposed to have to do this season, but we’ll get to that later…) The point is that the likelihood that Johnny Manziel would have performed better than Josh McCown during the entirety of the last two games is minimal. Which makes the chanting for him confusing.
And also leads me to my second likely unpopular (but very accurate) observation about the Browns: Johnny Manziel does not play linebacker. And that’s what this team needs more than anything else right now: talented linebackers. Linebackers that can get to the quarterback. (Anyone seen Paul Kruger lately?) Linebackers that can set the edge in the run game. (Table of one for Mingo? Mingo? Bueller? Anyone?) These are the people we should be chanting for. Because really. Where are they? The inside linebackers are not even really the problem. Dansby is reliable, and Chris Kirksey is continuing to blossom into a really talented football player. It is the group of outside linebackers that I will be watching closely today. And I’m really hoping having Scott Solomon (aka Bloodbath) back from injury is going to help today. Because we need an outside linebacker to step up (and it probably isn’t going to be Johnny Manziel because, you know, he plays quartback).
Third: Special teams is good. Like really good. And I know most of you don’t want to hear positive things because we are losing, but again, this is just a factual statement. Travis Benjamin on punt returns? Good. Andy Lee punting? Good. Travis Coons kicking? Good. And last week we even found out that Justin Gilbert can be a good kick returner.
And (oh, I can just anticipate the unpopularity of this one) the run defense is improving. Prior to the Chargers final drive last game, the run defense had only given up 59 yards. Against a team with a couple of very good running backs and almost no receivers. So as much as some of you (inexplicably) don’t want this to be true, the offseason work to shore up the run defense, especially the inside run defense, is working. Donte Whitner (while struggling in pass coverage) is getting into the backfield on run plays. Danny Shelton and Randy Starks were good additions to this team.
And without a lot of detail, here are a few more likely unpopular (read: positive and true) observations about the Browns:
The run game is also getting better. Crowell and Johnson (if he can stay healthy) look like they could be the duo that Crowell and West couldn’t. The combo could be deadly in a beautiful way, especially if the O-line improves its run blocking.
Pierre Desir is turning into a really nice pro corner. He didn’t have a perfect game against the Chargers, but he had a good one. For the most part, he knew where his man was, and he knew where the ball was. He looks fast and physical. He did give up a touchdown, but I’m really optimistic about his continued growth.
But since all this optimism is probably really bumming some of you out, I will throw you a bone and end with a really negative statement. One that I have been repeating for years and hope that the Browns address during the next draft: Mitchell Schwartz is a terrible right tackle and a scourge upon our offense.
But, you know, Go Brownies!