By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals … in Four Downs
First down: Pressure on Andy Dalton.
The Bengals were hoping for their quarterback to emulate Baltimore’s Joe Flacco by elevating his game and taking the team to the Super Bowl. It’s not happening. Dalton’s inconsistency reared its ugly head in the last two losses. When Dalton is given space in the pocket to distribute the ball to his many targets, he can ring up big numbers. But when protection breaks down and he has pass rushers in his face, he can not make plays. He was sacked 10 times and intercepted six times in the last two games. Dalton’s game breaks down further when inclement weather exposes his barely average arm strength.
Second down: Super Joe vs. A.J. – the sequel.
Joe Haden frustrated superstar receiver A.J. Green in the 17-6 Browns win in Game 4 in Cleveland. Green had seven catches for 51 yards – his third-lowest yardage output this season. Since that game, Green has enjoyed successive games of 103, 155, 115, 128 and 151 yards. Green, who leads the NFL with 1,013 yards and is second with 65 receptions, will be on a mission in this renewal of the rivalry with Haden. Meanwhile, Haden, desperate for Pro Bowl recognition, has allowed only one TD reception (to Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster). While shadowing opponents’ No. 1 receiver each week, Haden has yielded only 34 catches for 365 yards in nine games.
Third down: Campbell’s comeback tour continues.
Jason Campbell as comeback player of the year? With two starts in the bank and seven games ahead, he certainly could stake a claim to the award. Campbell is the first Browns QB to record a rating of 100-plus in his first two starts with the team since 1966. He posted a 105.4 against Kansas City and 116.6 against Baltimore. In those games, Campbell has completed 45 of 71 passes (63.4 percent) for 555 yards, five TD and no interceptions. He also has made a few timely runs for first downs; six runs overall for 17 yards.
Fourth down: Pinching nickels.
Since starting cornerback Leon Hall went down with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury on Oct. 20, the Bengals’ nickel back duties has fallen to Chris Crocker, a journeyman safety originally drafted by the Browns in 2003 now in his 11th year. Crocker, however, did not practice all week with a hamstring injury and is doubtful for the game. In the likely event that Crocker doesn’t play, his role would be taken either by Brandon Ghee, a fourth-year player who has battled injuries, or Dre Kirkpatrick, a first-round pick in 2012 who has been a borderline bust. The main assignment of the Bengals’ nickel back will be Davone Bess, who finally paid dividends in the win over Baltimore after eight disappointing games to start his Browns career.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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