Ryan vs Ryan? Mangini vs team that fired him? Ryan vs Mangini? Not sure if that last one is anything to get excited about. Perhaps the guy who doesn’t stop talking vs the guy who won’t tell you who his starting quarterback is if he is being physically tortured, makes for an interesting story line. In any event, Browns’ games seem to be more about the coaching match-ups the last couple of weeks than anything else. Well that’s all good and well, but when it comes down to it, I would rather talk about what might happen on the field.
Let’s start with the most important position on the field. QB Jake Delhomme, who is still recovering from an ankle injury, practiced with the team on Thursday. Coach Mangini, however, has suggested that rookie Colt McCoy will probably get the start Sunday. McCoy is 2-1 in his first three games. It has been fun to point out that the rook has beat the venerable Drew Brees and legendary Tom Brady, but in reality McCoy is matching up against defenses not other quarterbacks.
Last week, McCoy played very well against the Patriots defense. He looked poised as he set the pace early in the game completing play action passes. His efficiency softened the Pats run defense and allowed Peyton Hillis to go off for 184 yards, the majority of them coming in the second half to put the game on ice. For the sake of comparison, the Pats defense coming into that game ranked near the bottom of the league in total defense.
Two weeks prior, McCoy was the starter when the Browns stunned the Saints. The Saints, however, are near the top of the league in total defense. To be fair though, McCoy had very little to do with the victory over the Saints. The Browns defense had four interceptions and two touchdowns. McCoy himself, while not giving anything away with turnovers, threw for only 74-yards.
For the Browns to beat the Jets, whose stingy defense is more like the Saints than the Patriots, McCoy will probably be required to throw more than he has become accustomed to. The Jets defense only allows 87.4 rushing yards per game. If Peyton Hillis can not manage to squeeze through the tiny holes offered by the Jets 3-4 front, then McCoy will be forced to go after Darrelle Revis and the Jets secondary. Certainly not a very promising prospect. The Jets defense has shown a slight chink in their armour. They have allowed nearly 220-yards per game through the air which is 18th in the league. They struggle to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. McCoy will need to trust his line to pick up the Jets complex blitz packages, stand in the pocket and make some good decisions. Tight-ends Ben Watson and Evan Moore should be useful targets, if for no other reason than it is not likely WRs Mohamed Massaquoi or Chansi Stuckey will be able to escape the Jets talented cornerbacks Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Also, Hillis has proved to be a capable target in the passing game.
On defense, the Browns top pass rusher Marcus Benard’s status is uncertain for the game. Benard fainted in the locker room Thursday and has not yet returned to practice. Team doctors are trying to figure out what could have caused the episode. It is not yet certain whether he will be able to play Sunday. Without Benard, the Browns will be forced to dial up some blitzes which will leave their secondary vulnerable. You can be sure that Jets WR Braylon Edwards will be pumped up to stick it to the team that gave up on him after drafting him with the 3rd pick in the 2005 draft.
The common denominator in the Browns last two wins has been big plays on defense. We have already talked about the four interceptions against Drew Brees. It was a crucial forced fumble and recovery by Browns Safety Abe Elam on the 2-yard line that was the crucial play in last weekends win against the Patriots. After avoiding turnovers in his first five games of the season, Jets QB Mark Sanchez has thrown five picks in his previous three. The Browns really need to capitalize on the Jets inconsistencies, and find a way to get a few turnovers if they hope to keep their winning streak alive.
The extremely talented Jets have not lived up to their hype of late. In their last three games, they have sandwiched a 9-0 loss to the Packers between two uninspired wins where they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with late game heroics. Although many frustrated Jets fans have suggested luck may have been more of a factor than heroics in those wins. The Browns on the other hand have certainly outplayed their talent level. Give the nod to the oft-maligned Coach Mangini who has certainly brought out the best in his players. Mangini hopes he can continue his campaign to save his job by beating the team that fired him less than two years ago.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.