Forget the stupid statements like “I want to see the Browns win!” We obviously all want to see that, despite the fact that the Browns are 11 point underdogs heading down to Houston. Obviously we’d love to see the Browns come out and play like we haven’t seen them play this year and win against a legitimate playoff contender and division leader. Beyond that, the game within the game, what would you like to see?
In case you haven’t noticed, this is a rebuilding season as the Browns figure out what they have and more importantly what they don’t. They’ve rolled the dice and won like on the defensive line. They’ve also rolled the dice and lost like thinking the receivers on the roster from last year were going to develop quickly or at all. (See Robiskie, Brian) So, we all know where they stand now. The best thing that could happen to this team is that they start to figure out how to play together. Here’s what I want to see without sarcasm.
Jordan Norwood period. Josh Cribbs seems disenchanted and discouraged. Massaquoi and Little have shown spots, but remain inconsistent targets for Colt McCoy. Jordan Norwood seemed to provide the first big target for McCoy since he was able to check down incessantly to Peyton Hillis week one against the Bengals. It is ironic that a guy as little as Norwood could be a “big target,” but it isn’t surprising that the quickest guy on the field might be able to get open against a nickel corner, linebacker or safety.
Fewer 3rd and 13s. The Browns found themselves in 3rd and 13 THREE times against the 49ers. I know better than to expect the Browns to become an offensive juggernaut over night, but the Browns can avoid situations like this just by taking care of the ball. Every series that the Browns found themselves in this down and distance it was aided by a fumble.
More discipline from defense on running gaps. Frank Gore gashed the Browns a week ago, and I will be looking to see if they learned from the tapes. On Gore’s first scamper, T.J. Ward read run and ran upfield for some reason making it easy to seal him outside. Mike Adams got sealed inside. Gore goes for 26. Ward needs to hold his ground and wait for help. He did a better job on Gore’s next long run, but the linebackers failed to get over to help he and Joe Haden who were eliminated by much larger blockers. As a defense the Browns need to mind their gaps and not gamble because Arian Foster will be running all day.
Other than those specific things, I will be looking for some sense of urgency. I know this Browns team is learning new systems and sometimes it is easy to over-think things at first. Now, this far into the season it is time for them to start playing with some determination, confidence and intensity. It can’t just show up when they are lucky enough to get a first down. It needs to happen from the moment the ball is kicked into the first defensive or offensive snap. Explode off the ball and set the tone before Houston sets it.
Look, they may not win, but that doesn’t mean they can’t look better. A lot of you have complained more about the way the team has looked than about the record. I agree with that. So what little things would you like to see that will at least make you feel like they are progressing regardless of the score at the end?