By Tony Grossi
Browns v. Ravens … in Four Downs
First Down: Leveling the field.
Here’s the scorecard on players lost and players returning since the Ravens’ 23-16 win in the first meeting in Baltimore on Sept. 27: The Ravens have lost linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerback Lardarius Webb and maybe defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who missed the entire practice week with a shoulder injury. The Ravens gained rush linebacker Terrell Suggs. The Browns lost defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin and cornerback Dimitri Patterson. They gained cornerback Joe Haden and defensive tackle Phil Taylor, and have since seen receiver Josh Gordon emerge as a big-play deep threat.
Second down: Which running back will touch the ball more?
Trent Richardson and Ray Rice share more in common than their short stature (Richardson is 5-9 ½ and Rice is 5-8). Both backs seem to be underused while quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Joe Flacco are on pace for 598 and 582 pass attempts, respectively, which would be records for each franchise. Richardson has averaged 19.0 touches (runs and catches) per game; Rice 19.2. Richardson is coming off a personal-best 122 yards rushing. Rice, who led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage last year, had only 54 total yards in a 43-13 loss in Houston.
Third down: By land or by air?
For years, the Browns have struggled to move the ball against the Ravens’ famously stout and angry defense. The dilemma this time is to choose the most efficient means of attacking a defense that has been historically weak against the run and pass. Do the Browns pound the ball with Richardson against Baltimore’s 30th-ranked run defense? Or do they take advantage of skittish Lardarius Webb-replacement Jimmy Smith, who bites on play-fakes and stop-and-go routes, and unleash a few Brandon Weeden bombs to Josh Gordon? Or do they do both?
Fourth down: Whither MoMass?
How will the Browns re-incorporate Mohamed Massaquoi into the receiver mix after he missed five games with a hamstring injury? Through three games, Massaquoi (nine catches for 145) yards was the team’s most reliable receiver. Since his injury, Gordon and rookie Josh Cooper have emerged, and Greg Little has reduced his drops.
|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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