With all teams 0-1, each squad is tied for first place — as well as last. The Ravens and Browns are both coming off of double-digit losses and will look to get needed wins.
We conversed with SB Nation's Dawgs By Nature blogger Chris Pokorny to get his take on the Browns. Here's what he had to say:
Baltimore Beatdown: Without Josh Gordon available, how do the Browns rebound from their poor offensive showing to put pressure on the Ravens this week?
Chris Pokorny: After the game was over, I thought that I had severely underestimated the value of Josh Gordon to this offense. To an extent, that's still true — him being in the lineup helps open things up for everyone else. However, after re-watching the game closely, there were a lot of plays in which Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Davone Bess, and Jordan Cameron were breaking wide open in the seam or downfield, only for Brandon Weeden to throw a quick pass to a covered player for an incompletion or for little gain. Some of that was on Weeden, but a lot of it was on pass protection issues.
You guys are familiar with Oniel Cousins from his days in Baltimore, so maybe it won't be a surprise to hear me say that he might be the worst offensive lineman in the game today. I truly believe his horrid performance as a fill-in starter had a trickle down effect on the rest of our offensive linemen. With Weeden ending up on his back as often as he did, he didn't trust his protection enough to advance through his progressions.
It looks like we'll have to live with Cousins again for another week, but the coaching staff has had time to see why he struggled and should place a priority on adjusting their blocking schemes to involve the tight ends and running backs more. If Weeden trusts his protection, he can fire it downfield to those open receivers with confidence.
BB: Even though the Browns lost 23-10, how pleased was the fan base with tight end Jordan Cameron and his role?
CP: Because of Rob Chudzinski's track record with developing tight ends, hopes were high for Jordan Cameron entering training camp. Cameron had a very quiet start to camp, and those hopes began diminishing to the point where we wondered if someone else might emerge with the starting role. Then, something clicked between Weeden and Cameron toward the end of camp, and that carried over into the opener against Miami.
Cameron has impressed me with the moves he can make to get open, and on top of that, he can reach out to make athletic catches. If there is one thing he can work on right now, it's his catch-and-run ability. He has great speed for a tight end, but a lot of times, he seems to catch a wide open pass and then proceeds to fall down, perhaps because he's focusing too much on securing the catch. Fans are very optimistic when it comes to Cameron's production the rest of the season; when Josh Gordon comes back, we feel the tandem will give us a solid 1-2 punch in the receiving game.
BB: How much of an impact can Barkevious Mingo have this week?
CP: The Browns' front seven was very good last week in both facets of the game. We didn't get to see much of Barkevious Mingo in the preseason before he suffered a bruised lung, but we know he has the quick burst to get pressure off the edge or as an inside rusher in all-out blitzes. With this being Mingo's first week back and the depth Cleveland has, I think he will be eased back into the lineup.
Even if he had never suffered the bruised lung from the get-go, I think the number of reps he would've seen against Miami would've been limited. If this makes sense, Mingo won't have the number of reps to make a consistent impact, but he will probably be placed in a situation where he can make an impact. In other words, the Browns might have a six- or seven-man blitz package installed, with Mingo being designed to be the free rusher.
If he gets that opportunity and it nets a sack or a third-down incompletion, that'll be the type of impact we're hoping for. Long-term, we hope to utilize Mingo more in the actual base rotation on the outside.
BB: What led to Trent Richardson's struggles in the run game last week and do you expect that to change this Sunday?
CP: Trent Richardson did not struggle in my opinion. He broke 8 tackles in 13 carries, and still managed to average 3.6 yards per carry despite the fact that the run blocking on the right side of the formation was not very good. Some will say that the Browns abandoned the run against Miami, but after re-watching the game, I don't think that was the case.
The Browns were still trying to mix in runs during their second-half drives, but there were penalties, sacks, and blown up running plays where Richardson was getting hit just as he touched the ball. When the Browns are facing 2nd-and-long or 3rd-and-long at a consistent clip, it's going to increase the pass attempts vs. the run attempts. When the Dolphins took a two-possession lead mid-way through the fourth quarter, the Browns just opted to run 15 pass plays to try to come back.
The flow of the game needs to go better for Cleveland this week, and they need to convert more third downs. If that happens, Richardson will get the number of touches he needs. If there is one thing I thought should have been in the playbook more last week, it would be that Richardson should have been involved in the passing game more too.
BB: OK, the question most non-Browns fans want to know: Are Browns fans willing to remain patient with Brandon Weeden or is the time already running out on the second-year but not-so-young quarterback?
CP: Many fans are frustrated with Weeden, but this is a season where I really feel you have to stick with Weeden most of the way. Jason Campbell is not going to be a long-term answer at quarterback. Brian Hoyer has a fair amount of fans as a local product, but when it comes down to it, Weeden is the best quarterback the Browns have on the roster.
Using this season as an evaluation period for the other two quarterbacks isn't going to help us very much. It will, however, tell the organization whether Weeden should stick around next year as the starter or not. Some people believe that Michael Lombardi and Joe Banner will take a quarterback high in the 2014 NFL Draft even if Weeden does have a good 2013 season.
Unless Weeden ends up being the sole reason the Browns are losing for a string of several games (i.e. he is throwing stupid interceptions in the fourth quarter when the game is tied in a tough defensive battle), I see him lasting at least for the rest of the season.
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