The Cleveland Browns will take on the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Sunday. This game signifies a crossroads of sorts for the 2014 Browns. After playing relatively well against three above-average opponents so far, the Browns are a precarious 1-2. Brian Hoyer has been very impressive up to this point, running the offense efficiently without his most recognized weapons. There have been very few wasted plays, false start penalties or delay of game issues. He has been able to take Kyle Shanahan’s vision and realize its benefits in both the pass and run game. A seemingly inadequate wide receiver corps has been proficient, and a pair of rookie running backs have proved to be hardened and explosive.
On the other hand, a highly touted defense has been disconcerting. They have struggled mightily against the run game and performances from pro-bowl corner Joe Haden and No. 8 overall pick Justin Gilbert have left a great deal to be desired. The issues on defense are ones that can be rectified and they have flashed signs of what could be a dominant defense.
The Browns schedule allows for them to make their presence known if they can take advantage but that starts with a win on Sunday. A performance like they put up the last few weeks along with a couple corrections should produce a Browns win against the Titans. After the Titans, the Browns get the Steelers at home, the Jaguars in Jacksonville and then back to back home games against Oakland and Tampa Bay.
What to Watch For
Ray Horton was the Browns defensive coordinator last year and now is running the Tennessee defense. Some have pointed to a lack of tape on Brian Hoyer as part of the reason teams have been unable to cue in on his tendencies. Horton obviously would have an advantage in this area and may be able to provide more insight on Hoyer into his defense than other teams have been able to.
The Browns kicking game cost them a win against the Ravens. Unfortunately, Billy Cundiff has been inadequate kicking from 50 yards and beyond. An NFL kicker should be nearly automatic from 55, barring extreme field and weather conditions. The Denver Broncos released their kicker Matt Prater this week and he would be a considerable step up over Cundiff. The Browns should be looking to bring in Prater quickly before Cundiff costs them any more games.
In addition, the Patriots cut WR Kimbrell Thompkins this week. Thompkins showed flashes of being an up-and-coming talent as a rookie last year. He was one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets, catching 32 balls for 466 yards. After a slow start this season the Patriots let him go. The Browns should do their due diligence and take a look at Thompkins. He could prove to be a very good young wide receiver who just needs a change of scenery.