By Tony Grossi
Browns v. Bengals … in Four Downs
First down: Chasing A.J.
As a rookie, Bengals receiver A.J. Green had the biggest play in both meetings last year won by the Bengals. The 6-4, 207-pound Green was covered fairly well by Joe Haden in both contests. But Haden is out serving the first game of a four-game suspension. The Browns will probably assign Dimitri Patterson to cover Green on the outside. When the Bengals line up three receivers, they could try to match up Green against Buster Skrine if the Browns drop down Patterson to cover the slot. If the Browns keep Patterson on the outside to cover Green, they may use untested rookie Trevin Wade to cover slot receiver Andrew Hawkins.
Second down: Andy has not been dandy.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a great start to his NFL career. He won six of his first eight games. Since then, Dalton is 3-7. That includes a loss in the AFC wild card game against Houston. In his last 10 starts, Dalton has completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 2,180 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His passer rating in those 10 games is a mediocre 71.6. Dalton better hope that Green remains healthy and in his lineup. Without Green, Dalton's shortcomings expose him as a pretty ordinary passer.
Third down: How much to play the old man.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, 33, will be active after missing the first game because his league suspension (Saints bounty scandal) was lifted by a three-member panel order too late in the practice week to play in Game 1. In Fujita’s place, rookie L.J. Fort and first-year Craig Robertson displayed light feet and fresh legs, and had good games. Each made his first NFL interception and Fort had a sack. Coordinator Dick Jauron has to decide how to use Fujita’s savvy and experience at without benching Fort’s and Robertson’s speed and aggressiveness.
Fourth down: Breaking the ice.
Pat Shurmur is 0-6 in AFC North games. We know that can't continue. The good news for Shurmur is that the Browns closed their margin of defeat in each of the second meetings against their division rivals. They lost by 10 to the Bengals, then by 3. They lost by 14 to the Ravens, then by 6. They lost by 11 to the Steelers, then by 4. The next step is to win a division game, of course.
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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