The Cleveland Browns take on the St. Louis Rams tomorrow night at 8PM. It will be the first chance to see all the improvements made to First Energy Stadium. It will also be the first chance to get the bad taste of Monday Night Football out of our mouths. Rams Vs. Browns may not be the big name match-up that many hoped Washington Vs. Cleveland would be, but it does match two teams that could be poised to take the next step. Both could be held back by their quarterbacks from reaching their goals.
Here are 3 things to watch for in Rams Vs. Browns:
With the naming of Brian Hoyer, over Johnny Manziel, the Browns have a direction for their offense. Hoyer can spend time getting on the same page with his linemen, receivers and backs. The Browns will need to show some sort of plan and clearly execute that plan tomorrow night to help bring fans down off the ledge.
Kyle Shanahan’s system is setup to play off of the run game primarily. Getting good runs on first and second downs can open up the play action and bootleg passing game that Shanahan likes to run. Outside of Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon, the Browns do not have other receivers who can win one on one match-ups regularly. Instead they must be schemed open by the coordinator.
Against Washington the offense looked lifeless, disjointed and far to similar to the terrible versions Browns fans have seen for the past decade or more. Tonight is a chance to come together and make things happen. Move the ball, make solid plays and score some points.
Outside of just the general offensive continuity is the Browns need for the offensive line to play well. In the Zone Blocking Scheme the line has to work together and execute their blocks for things to come together. Against the Rams they get a huge challenge. The Rams have 4 first round picks on their defensive line as well as talented Kendall Langford. Chris Long and Robert Quinn are aggressive, talented pass rushers that can cause havoc in pass protection. Inside Langford, Michael Brockers and rookie Aaron Donald can manhandle blockers in the run game and push the pocket in the passing game.
The Rams also have first round pick Alec Ogletree and high 2nd round Ohio State Buckeye James Laurinaitis as linebackers. The talent on the Rams front 7 is extensive. Can Mitchell Schwartz hold his blocks long enough for our backs to get outside and Hoyer to make good reads? Can Joel Bitonio, Alex Mack and John Greco use their agility to overcome the power of the inside linemen? Will anyone be able to get to the second level to get blocks on St. Louis’ linebackers? All big questions, and big tests for the Browns tomorrow night.
Head Coach Mike Pettine came in with a plan on defense. Play physical on the outside, locking down receivers with strong corners Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert, to allow creative coverages and blitzes from the interior. A great plan, proven to work in New York, Baltimore and with the champion Seahawks.
The NFL had a different plan as the Competition Committee encouraged the enforcement of already standing rules about down field contact. The pre-season has been littered with little yellow laundry all over the field. Basically if a defender touches a receiver after they pass 5 yards of the line of scrimmage a flag has come out.
This is a huge deal for the Browns whose defense is anchored in physical corner play. Besides a rash of injuries that have decimated the defensive backfield, the Browns have also been hurt greatly by the new emphasis. Against the Rams, who have a good mix of big and small receivers, the Browns will have to learn how the new rules are being called. While the NFL has stated that they expect the regular season to be called the same as the pre-season many believe this won’t be true. The Browns can’t base their defense on hoping enforcement becomes more loose.
What are you looking for tomorrow night?