As the Browns prepare to begin their second season under head coach Hue Jackson, this is a good time to sit back and put a few things in perspective. For this is not just the Browns opening game, it’s also Steelers week. While the Cleveland, the Pittsburgh matchup may not have quite the luster it used to have for Steelers fans, it’s still the biggest series of the season for Browns fans.
The injury sustained by Myles Garrett in practice this week is unfortunate, to say the least. Not only does it affect the defensive line and its rotation, it takes some of the drama out of Sunday’s game. Garrett had some words about Ben Roethlisberger in anticipation of facing him.
“Big Ben is a Super Bowl winner and I heard he’s hard to take down, so, I’m coming for him, chop him down.”
Big Ben shrugged it off, but we all know both teams were looking forward to seeing Garrett on the field while attempting to stand their ground. The good news for the Browns is that they have depth to spare on their defensive line. Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard have both looked the part in 2017 and bringing back Tyrone Holmes will help as well. Holmes was a surprise cut who was waived based on the depth of the line. While none of these players have the ability of Garrett, this defense has played an attacking and relentless style under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and that will not change. Don’t expect the Browns to back down Sunday.
DeShone Kizer will make his debut as the Browns’ starter this week. This is a move that I was against for a long time but have grown to embrace. Whether Kizer will truly give the Browns the best chance to win week in and week out is unknown. We’ll have to watch his progression and live with his mistakes. It comes down to the fact that Kizer’s talent is undeniable and he has shown enough for Hue Jackson to feel comfortable with him playing. He has leadership skills atypical for a 21-year-old. He also has a personality that exudes confidence, humbleness and a strength that will not allow him to be intimidated.
Another interesting part of this game will be the play of both Joe Haden and Sammy Coates. I honestly don’t expect to see Haden on Coates much. Let’s face it, Joe can’t really cover speed guys anymore. However, both will play and their individual impacts will be compared. Both players brought knowledge of the other team’s playbooks, yet we shouldn’t expect that to be much of a factor. The Browns defense has far too many schemes and the Pittsburgh offense has too many weapons. The matchup won’t be any different than it would have been without the added players.
The Browns receiving corps should now intrigue us all. They’ve added three guys we didn’t have a chance to see in the preseason. In doing so, they added both size and speed. Reggie Davis isn’t very big, but he’s a burner (4.31 40-yard dash). Coates is fast and also brings good size, while Kasen Williams is of similar stature to Coates. Williams was a preseason standout who inexplicably got cut by Seattle. The Browns still don’t have a lot of experience in this group, but the talent level has risen dramatically in the past week.
Whether the Browns win or lose Sunday, we all want to see the Browns go toe-to-toe with these guys. The Steelers have been the big brother for far too long. This is the team that needs to stand tall and punch them right back in the mouth with a wry smile. The Browns may have a bit more building to do, but don’t tell the players, Gregg Williams or Hue Jackson that.
As far as the season is concerned, most people expect this team to be in the five win range. I believe that’s a realistic view. The defense should keep the team in most games. The performance of the offense will decide most games for this team. The development of Kizer, the wide receivers and the tight ends are the key. The running game should be good, but we all know that you have to have a solution to the defense putting eight men in the box constantly.
Here’s hoping for a great performance by our Browns Sunday with many more to come in 2017. Just remember the youth of this team and maintain the patience that we all need to show. Keeping this regime afloat is the key to gaining consistency for this franchise. Go Browns!
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