The Browns are getting very little respect nationally despite the influx of young talent on their roster. I guess that’s understandable. Pundits and fans alike generally give a team little credit for its preseason performance. The Browns will only be taken seriously when they start winning some real games. Until then, everyone outside of Cleveland will continue to see the 2017 Browns as the same team that lost 15 games last season.
We may know fairly early whether the Browns will be competitive in their opener. Some key indicators will tell us how far this team has come in this massive rebuild. We’ll also know how much certain players are missed who will not be playing for the good guys in this one.
Minus the Garrett effect
Can the defensive line play well for four quarters without its biggest star? The Browns have to get pressure on Big Ben while also limiting Le’Veon Bell to a human number of yards rushing. It’s a tall task, but the front seven have been impressive and deep in the preseason. If they can maintain that aggressive, attacking style, they have a chance to create some big plays. They’ll need guys like Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah to come up big. If the Browns fail to get pressure on Roethlisberger, it will be a long day.
We don’t need Joe Haden, right?
How much will the Browns miss Joe Haden? Well that’s hard to say. Haden really hasn’t been himself for several seasons. The question here really should be whether the Browns young secondary can play with the Steelers weapons and keep the Browns in the game. Jamar Taylor, Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun need to play well. The positive is that none of these guys are rookies.
Offensive line dominance
We haven’t seen the Browns starting offensive line play together much yet. We should be able to tell in the first few possessions if they are a cohesive unit at this point. If the line plays up to its well-advertised potential, the running game should work and Browns rookie QB DeShone Kizer should have enough time to make some plays. If the line struggles at all, it could be a long afternoon for the Browns.
How do our wide receivers look?
With a flurry of late moves, the Browns added some receivers we aren’t very familiar with. We have to wonder how much of an impact Sammy Coates and Kasen Williams can have with minimal time to learn the playbook. There will be a package of plays for the new guys, so we won’t really know how much playing time each will garner until we watch the game. Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman need to step up while the new guys find their roles and learn the offense. Seeing Ricardo Louis make a few plays would also be most pleasant.
Who’s our kicker?
With Cody Parkey gone, rookie Zane Gonzalez takes over the kicking duties. He looked good in the preseason, but once again, he needs to prove that he can make kicks in the games that count. NFL teams have a very low tolerance for missed kicks. Here’s hoping that young Zane is up to the task.
The Browns have a chance to show everyone that this is not the same team they saw a season ago. While you may feel that the Browns have gone very young in order to tank again, I don’t believe that’s the case. I expect to see an excellent effort from the Browns. I just hope the Browns have enough to shock the world in tomorrow’s game. Go Browns!