By: Will Burge
Joe Haden missed practice for the second straight day and Pat Shurmur said that he will be a game time decision against Dallas. It would be a huge blow to the Browns chances if Haden cannot play. Dallas is the 6th best passing attack in the NFL and has weapons all over the field.
If Haden is out, Buster Skrine will start at corner opposite Sheldon Brown and will most likely be the guy that Tony Romo will try and pick on. Remember, when Haden was suspended for four games the Browns went 0-4 and gave up over 30 points per game. Since his return, they are 2-3 and only allowing 17 points per contest.
Skrine has not proven he can cover elite receivers on the outside. In fact, he was the victim of a vicious punking at the hands of AJ Green in week 2 when Andy Dalton threw for 295 yards. We might find out on Sunday just how much, or little, Skrine has improved over the last 8 weeks.
Josh Cribbs told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he feels “caged” and wants to showcase himself. He said that he has proven he can be a productive receiver because he was second on the team in receiving yards last season. The problem is that Cribbs is not one of the best four receivers on the Browns’ team. They are now invested in developing Josh Gordon, Greg Little, and Travis Bemnjamin and even Mohamed Massaquoi has been more productive than Cribbs.
People around Cribbs have told me that he and Pat Shurmur have bumped heads since he began coaching the team. Maybe it has something to do with the half dozen times that Cribbs has spoken publicly to the media about issues with his role on offense. I understand he needs to showcase his abilities to get a decent contract next season somewhere else, but he also needs to realize that wherever he goes he will be signed as a kick returner and not a wide receiver.
As a returner, he will have a chance to showcase his skills this Sunday in Dallas. The Cowboys have the 19th ranked kick return coverage unit and only 33% of their kickoffs are touchbacks (25th in the NFL).
On Thursday, Josh Gordon said he would have an increased role in the offense moving forward. During the bye week, Pat Shurmur, Brad Childress, and the rest of the offensive staff combed over the film from the first nine weeks and adjusted their playbook to fit what worked and discard what didn’t.
Gordon was the best deep threat the Browns had during the first nine games. He leads the team in receiving yards (417) and touchdowns (4). The Browns will have to be creative to get him open, however, as the Cowboys own the 7th best pass defense in the NFL. Simply isolating him on one side of the formation will not work because he is the only guy the safeties need to worry about.
There is one other player who can ease the pressure on Gordon, however, and that’s (surprise, surprise) Mohamed Massaquoi. He is finally back healthy and was having a very productive year early on. If he can continue his 15 yards per reception clip then safeties will have to respect him on the opposite side of the formation as Gordon.
Mike Holmgren started off the week by half heartedly denying rumors that he has interest in the Dallas Cowboys head coaching position next year.
“I haven’t booked my tickets to Dallas,” Holmgren joked. Unfortunately, he never actually said that he was not interested in the job. With all the ties to Jerry Jones, Dallas seems like the most logical fit for Holmgren to return to the sidelines next season.
I was on with ESPN Dallas this morning and they were absolutely giddy at the idea of Holmgren coaching their team. I told them that I do believe he can be successful there. He may not work long days but he is still one of the best minds in the game. ESPN’s John Clayton said Wednesday with The Hooligans that he did not work long hours in Seattle and was very successful there as a head coach anyway.
Despite popular belief, the West Coast offensive system can and does work in the NFL. You just have to adjust your system to match your talent, which Holmgren has done over the years. Unfortunately, he hired a coach in Pat Shurmur who has not shown the ability to do so.
I have a feeling this is a road trip that Mike Holmgren will definitely be taking. Hopefully Jerry Jones knows that all he needs to get Holmgren to commit to coaching is a Brinks truck full of cash and those drinks with the little umbrellas in them which he loves so very much.
|Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPNCleveland.com and hosts 3 Deep, Monday - Friday from 7pm-9pm.|
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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