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Browns Can Start a Strong Finish in Jacksonville

November 19, 2010
Jack Bacevice

The heartbreaking loss to the Jets is in the past and the Browns now sit at 3-6. While the playoffs are out of the question now, that doesn't meant there isn't still plenty to play for the rest of the season. The Browns have played exciting and competitive football all year and a strong showing over the final seven games could really help this team turn into a playoff contender for 2011. These next five game provide an excellent opportunity to get some new experience. The last four games the Browns went in as underdogs. They played very tough, very smart, football and managed to go 2-2 against more talented teams. Now the Browns come into a stretch where they will be favored in some games. They also will be playing teams where just hanging with them and hoping to win at the end will not be enough.

Sunday the Browns face a Jacksonville team that may be the stiffest test of the next five games. Jacksonville is 5-4, but they're lucky to have 5 wins. The Browns are on the road, but they should go into Jacksonville and be able to move the ball well against a weak defense. On the flip side, the Browns defense should be able to contain Jacksonville. The Jaguars are a very efficient offense, but they don't strike me as a big play team. The big play is what has hurt the Browns defense this year. Facing a team that isn't equipped to strike that way should work in the Browns favor. After facing great defensive coaches like LeBeau, Ryan, Belichick, and Williams, the Jacksonville defense shouldn't be a problem for Colt McCoy to handle.

After that, the Browns face the Carolina Panthers. This 1-8 squad is now starting a quarterback who wasn't even on the roster a week ago. He was a stay at home dad. Then comes a 5-4 Miami team that would rank as the toughest opponent in this stretch if not for their very serious quarterback issues. Next is 1-8 Buffalo. The Bills play hard but the Browns should be able to simply out-talent them. (The Browns could also out-talent the Panthers, but the Panthers don't really play hard, or competent, football so that shouldn't even be necessary.) Finally, the eternally dysfunctional Cincinnati Bengal finish this favorable stretch of schedule.

I think the Browns are the better team in all 5 of those games. I think the Browns are the better coached team in all 5 of those games. I think the Browns clearly have the better quarterback in three of those games (Panthers, Dolphins, Bills), and by the end of the season McCoy could be considered better than David Garrard and Carson Palmer as well.

This are some great opportunities for a number of individual players as well.

Peyton Hillis can confirm to the NFL that he is an elite running back in this league for the next few years with some more big games in this stretch. In terms of age, Hillis is right at the beginning of the NFL prime for a running back. There's no doubt that he is the Browns running back, but Peyton can serve notice to the league that he is a top-10 guy with a strong finish to this season.

Joe Haden should garner even more playing time with Sheldon Brown nicked up and Eric Wright struggling mightily. Haden needs to get used to shutting down opposing receivers in a starting role. It's experience he can rely on next year when I imagine he will be a starter from Day One and the Browns should be a team thinking playoffs from the start of camp.

Colt McCoy can't officially be anointed the franchise guy in a place like Cleveland until we see him succeed in some inclement winter weather. He will get that chance against still defenses in Weeks 16 and 17 vs. Baltimore and Pittsburgh. In the meantime, McCoy can continue to gain valuable experience and confidence, both in himself and from and with his teammates, in these next five weeks prior to those final big games.

Mohammad Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie need to prove they can be viable receivers at the NFL level over these next five games. It's likely the Browns will target a receiver in the first round of the draft, particularly if they think they have their quarterback in Colt McCoy. (Personally, I am already having dreams of A.J. Green, Massaquoi's former Georgia teammate.) Massaquoi has done enough, when you also consider 2009, that a strong finish this year could solidify him as an NFL number 2 receiver. Robiskie just needs to prove he can produce at the NFL level. If he can't, he could be on the bubble to even make the team next year.

Shaun Lauvao is going to have the opportunity to start the rest of the year will Billy Yates (who was playing very well) going on IR. The Browns already have two elite offensive linemen who are very young in Alex Mack and Joe Thomas. Additionally, the Browns have what I think is one elite veteran in Eric Steinbach and one very strong veteran in Floyd Womack. Lauvao can show he is both the final piece to the 2011 puzzle on the offensive line, and that he can be part of a core with Thomas and Mack of a dominant offensive line for the next 7-10 years.

Finally, there is Eric Mangini. He has put himself in position to assure the 2011 coaching job will be his with some very impressive wins over New England and New Orleans on the road. Now he just needs to get the win total. There is obvious progress on this team. If they stay the course and keep improving, there is absolutely no reason not to retain Mangini in 2011. However, with the way the schedule finishes up and the talent some of these players have already displayed, a 5-11 record won't cut it because that means a 2-5 finish. On the flip side, a 4-3 finish (or better) for a 7-9 overall record (or better) should guarantee a Mangini return.

5 comments:

  1. After this game if Daboll isn't fired then Holmgren is dumber then I thought.
    I realize that there are few quality players on offense, but for goodness sakes where the hell is Evan Moore, he seems to catch anything thrown near him.
    Robiskie is terrible and should sit on the bench next to Eric Wright who is the worst DB in the NFL.
    Where was the creative playcalling from the last four games?? How do we beat N.O. and N.E. and lose to the Jags? Unbelieveable, where is this WR, Mitchell from USF they drafted? Playing Stuckie, Robiskie is showing how dunb Daboll is and sitting Moore the best hands on the team.
    The article in todays P.D. about Rob Ryan as a head coach next year is laughable, he couldn't coach the St Ed football team, his schemes looked like he was the one confused. Back to the drawing boad and another top pick next year, thank goodness Heckert is draing and no Manguenius, we don't need anymore Robikies or Viekunie or Maivias.

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  2. Hello--Does anyone still post here?

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  4. y? can't the brown go 2 running back in back field ? ....muttklingon

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