By Tony Grossi
Browns v. Eagles … in Four Downs
First down: Pitch count?
Trent Richardson got through the practice week unscathed in his first team work since Aug. 9 ‘scope knee surgery. He’s ready to go. The question is how much do the Browns protect him in his first NFL game. Do they limit him to 15 touches? 25? They have to be smart. A lot falls on Richardson. If he feels anything weird in the knee at any time in the game, he has to let them know. And there’s no question on this end who should be the second back. It’s got to be Brandon Jackson.
Second down: Dick Jauron’s tough day.
The Browns defensive coordinator is missing tackle Phil Taylor and linebacker Chris Gocong from his lineup. Another starting linebacker, Scott Fujita, may not play because of a left leg injury that caused him to miss much of the past three weeks of preseason. In their spots will be rookie Billy Winn, seldom-used linebacker Kaluka Maiava and rookie linebacker L.J. Fort, who backed up D’Qwell Jackson all summer but is pressed to start because James-Michael Johnson, another rookie, is out. What a challenge for a coordinator to go up against Philadelphia’s multi-dimensional, multi-talented offense with such a young lineup.
Third down: The Browns’ only advantage.
Yes, the Browns’ special teams were awful in the last two preseason games. They’re chalking up the last one to soon-to-be-released players placed in unfamiliar positions. That doesn’t excuse what happened in the third practice game v. these Eagles – a blocked punt on which Maiava was beaten badly, and a 30-yard return allowed to Philadedelphia rookie Damaris Johnson. Still, this can be the Browns’ ace-in-the-hole. Josh Cribbs was held out of each of the first three games except for one rep to preserve perfect health for the season. Kicker Phil Dawson, punter Reggie Hodges and the coverage units represent the only apparent Browns advantage in this matchup.
Fourth down: Any more favors, Browns?
Cleveland fans always think the NFL is against them, when, in fact, the opposite is true. Here are the most recent examples: 1. For the 13th time in 14 seasons, the league scheduled the Browns’ first game at home. Any coach would give his backup right tackle to start the season at home. It’s not the NFL’s fault the Browns are 1-12 in season openers, including 1-11 at home. 2. Pre-occupied with other matters, the NFL failed to act on cornerback Joe Haden’s possible suspension, thus permitting him to play in this game. 3. Fujita was reinstated from “bounty scandal” suspension at the last minute. It was a three-member panel that gets credit for that one, but if the NFL hadn’t botched the wording of its suspensions in the first place the players wouldn’t have had much of a case.
|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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