Can the Cleveland Browns recover from their kick-six loss to the Ravens? Do they even want to?

by WFNY Staff

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Hey, so have you enjoyed the short week? What better way to take advantage of a national spotlight than to demonstrate an absence of basic competence with an embarrassing potential game-winning field goal get blocked and returned for the game-clinching loss. All while having the fan favorite (and fan reviled) Johnny Manziel suit up, but not play while Austin Davis finished the game out. Some poor child was probably being introduced to the Browns through the game too.

But, at least we didn’t have a penalty allow a game-ending Hail Mary on national television. Sorry Lion fans, we know how you feel (still doesn’t top Ruud’s helmet toss though). And, I hear some idiot actually enjoyed watching the game by focusing on what really matters in his life. Loser.

Anyway, new week, new opponent. Well, except we already played (and lost to) this opponent. Maybe things will go better against the Bengals this time? Not being on national television is likely a positive first step.

Browns offense versus Bengals defense

What do you expect from Austin Davis? Can he earn another start after Cincinnati?

Craig: I can’t imagine that the Browns will need to see a ton more Austin Davis. He’s locked up and he’ll be here next year to try and not be garbage just like another Josh McCown or Brian Hoyer next season. Maybe I’m short-selling him, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’s a starter sitting under our noses.

Joe: I liked what I saw from Austin Davis in the limited action he had on Monday night. His accuracy and quick decision-making were very good against the Ravens. This week I am not sure what to expect from Davis because the Bengals had a whole week to gameplan for Davis and Davis will have to play the whole game rather than part of a quarter. But, if Davis can show the similar performance he had on Monday, then I believe he can earn another start after Cincinnati this week. I think his experience in the league could help him play well this week. I am very intrigued to see him in a full game.

Michael: The good thing is Austin Davis is going to do what he does in make quick decisions and put the ball out there. The bad thing is when defenses adjust to him, they can limit him pretty quickly. The Bengals will likely be going through his poor five game set at the end of his time with the Rams last season and using it to gameplan. Can Davis adjust to make plays off his second and third reads? I hope so, but he is truly a backup quarterback, so I am not expecting much.

Josh: With almost all of Cleveland rooting for Johnny, Austin Davis is already behind even before he makes his starting debut for the Browns. He may have shown glimpses of hope in last Monday night’s devastating loss to the Ravens, but must play mistake-free football if he wants Cleveland fans to be on his side, not chanting “Johnny”, and get another start.

Scott: I expect a day somewhat like the starts had by guys like Thad Lewis or Connor Shaw where fans go in thinking its going to be an abomination but then said quarterback makes one — maybe two — plays that look somewhat like that of an actual NFL quarterback and a faction of Browns fans attempt to talk themselves into him being the quarterback for now while we all look to address other issues. It’s going to be a real party.

Will: I expect whatever result will lead to the greatest amount of chaos in Berea. Based on years past, that will include Davis playing like a world beater, perhaps including an outta-nowhere win over the Bengals. Fans will then call for him to start in 2016, resulting in [insert new head coach and/or GM here] being unhappy that they don’t get to pick their own quarterback. Or maybe he’ll play well and get hurt, and then Johnny will play well and get hurt, and then Pryor will play well and get hurt. Also, do merry-go-rounds by definition have to be merry?

Richard: “Almost all of Cleveland rooting for Johnny?” Has someone conducted a professional poll I haven’t hear of. I don’t believe it, but either way I would hope those highly paid coaches aren’t swayed by the “we want — fill-in-the-blank” chants. Yes, I think Davis can earn another start (probably alreadyhas). Listening to Pettine talk about Austin Davis gives a good indication of what he doesn’t like about Manziel. Davis, however, will have to show good sense protecting the ball and protecting himself (getting rid of the ball when there’s nothing open) to still be standing by the end of his first start.

The Bengals have a better defense than the Browns have faced lately (other than Cincinnati). Can the Browns offense continue to put up yards (points)? What are you looking for out of the offense this week?

Craig: With Austin Davis taking over I expect the Browns’ running game to finally get in gear. lol I’m just kidding. I expect the Bengals to shut the Browns down pretty handily this weekend.

Joe: The offense has not been the Achilles heel of this team, even with the obvious lack of skill players on the roster. I think a lot of credit should go to offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. He has been able to put together a solid offense through so many tough injuries to crucial players. The Bengals defense is obviously very talented and should be a handful for the Browns offense. I will be watching the line of scrimmage with the battle between the Browns offensive line and the Bengals defensive line. The Bengals boast a talented defensive line. So, the Browns offensive line could struggle to contain their rush, especially if Joel Bitonio is still out. If the Browns cannot handle their rush, then the offense will struggle to move the ball and score points. Davis will need to continue his quick decision-making this week. But, I am just not sure how well the offense will do against this stout Bengals defense.

Michael: Maybe we can manage to not be embarrassed by the Bengals by moving the ball well enough to eat clock. That statement is pretty much where I am at right now. I expect ugly to be seen at times from the offense; I just hope it isn’t all we see.

Josh: With virtually no rushing attack, Austin Davis and company will be depended on for any success on offense for the Browns. Up against a tough Bengals defense, Cleveland could have a long day on offense Sunday afternoon.

Scott: The Browns offense has put up just 29 points in the last two weeks. Say that keep that pace and put up 15? There’s no chance that’s enough.

Will: You know how joggers in the woods always seem to be the ones who find the dead bodies? I’m hoping for something as exciting as that.

Richard: I’m guessing the Browns should be able to move the ball against the Bengals with a good variety of pass plays, though I wouldn’t expect a smoothly oiled machine. The play-calling will be important. Quick releases, medium depth, and a few bombs thrown in. If they can move the ball it’s hard to believe it will be on the ground. I think I would reverse the “establish the running attack first” model and sprinkle in the the runs when (hopefully) they least expect it — and, as a matter of fact, I think that’s where the Browns have been heading this season.

Browns defense versus Bengals offense

How is it possible the Browns have become so bad at tackling? What do you make of it and is there any way to fix it before the season ends? Would firing O’Neil now help?

Craig: Firing O’Neil would only be symbolic. There’s no reason for so much of how the Browns ended up like this. Is it the loss of starts by their strengths like Joe Haden, Tashaun Gipson and others? Is it the transition from Pettine calling plays to O’Neil doing it? Is it some mixture of exiting players and entering free agents? Way more questions than answers, but it’s hard to imagine the Browns’ defense won’t get a makeover in the off-season one way or another.

Joe: The Browns tackling has been embarrassing this season. I do not think there is anything the coaches can do now to improve this deficiency. The players are just not staying fundamental, tackling with their head rather than their arms. It is what is. No adjustment during the season can fix this. It should have been talked about and addressed all offseason and preseason to ingrain it in the players’ minds. Firing O’Neil may actually be an aid to the defense because the defense seems just so confused in his scheme. The rumors of defensive players being tired of his scheme and lineups have been out there for a while. So, there may be something to firing him leading to an increase in performance. But, the players are definitely not absolved for the horrible defense this season.

Michael: I agree with Craig firing O’Neil would only be symbolic, but we might need something symbolic. I loathe calling for someone’s job, but I am out of ideas and it appears the Browns are as well. Poor technique, poor angles, poor effort. The triumvirate of poor tackling has been displayed this season by our Browns.

Josh: I mean, the defense is already as bad as it could possibly get, it’s not like firing O’Neil could make it any worse, so why not? For being the highest paid defense in the league, it’s embarrassing how bad the Browns are defensively, not only at tackling, but almost every aspect of the defense.

Scott: O’Neil is still there?

Will: There’s absolutely no way to fix their tackling now. The offseason is the time for improving skills; it’s not like running Oklahoma drills before Week 14 will snap everything into place. The how of it is a genuinely fascinating question for which I have no answer. Like, as complicated as football is made out to be, is tackling really that complicated? Sure, there are various tactics and zones and coverages and everything that come beforehand, but at the end of the day you’re trying to get the dude with the ball on the ground. Maybe they should include more kicks to the shins.

I never enjoy calling for anyone’s job, but I reckon O’Neil has earned the chance to explore new career opportunities. Based on his team’s ability to minimize offensive output, I would not recommend anything in Standards and Practices.

Richard: First off, firing O’Neil right now would just look like a temper tantrum. Off season is when personnel changes should be addressed.What’s wrong with their tackling (and maybe the reason for so many concussions around the NFL) is that players rely too much on big-time collisions intended to inflict harm, rather than stopping forward progress (agreeing with Joe above). Let’s face it, the Browns lack playmakers on both sides of the ball. If they had drafted someone like Khalil Mack — think what a difference one guy like that could be making. Try to sign a playmaker once a year. Offense? Defense? Position? Almost doesn’t matter. For Sunday, unless the Browns have some significant adjustments up their sleeves, I see the Bengals being able to do whatever they like. Come to think of it, didn’t I write the same thing before the first Browns-Bengals matchup? And isn’t that what happened then?

Lost in the chaos of the Kick-Six was Tashaun Gipson, who had a fine week against the Ravens. What defenders do you think have actually been doing their job well while surrounded by the current mess that is the Browns D?

Craig: Karlos Dansby seems mostly good. Tramon Williams has been solid all season considering what he’s been asked to take on with Joe Haden missing so much time. Other than that? I have no idea.

Joe: There are not many defensive players doing a solid or good job. I would say only Tashaun Gipson, Karlos Dansby and K’Waun Williams have really been consistently good for the defense. That is pretty sad. Gipson and Williams have been the only real consistent secondary players this season. Both players are in the right position and in tight coverage in their assignment. Karlos Dansby has also been steady this season. He has been good in pass coverage. The big names of Joe Haden, Paul Kruger, and Donte Whitner have all underperformed for various reasons. It is not good that only three players are the substantial bright spots on an entire unit.

Michael: I feel bad for Justin Gilbert who Schaub thought was covering well enough to not throw his direction before he was injured. And, for Danny Shelton who has been playing well the past few weeks before his gaffe on the field goal unit at the end of the game. I need to pay more attention to Kirksey too though as the coaches have been saying his play is coming on strong lately.

Josh: Although I haven’t focused too much on specific players on defense, Karlos Dansby has played very well lately, especially with his pick-six against Baltimore. But besides Dansby, I honestly don’t know which other players have been playing very well.

Scott: I also like what Dansby has done this season, in a steady-but-not-sexy way. There was a stretch this season where I was liking what Armonty Bryant had been doing, but that seems like forever ago. I’m also going to give a nod to Jamie Meder here because he too is an Ashland Eagle and it feels like he’s done a decent job when given the chance.

Will: In checking the box score I now see that Paul Kruger only had one tackle, but I thought he played a decent game against Baltimore. He had a quarterback hit and forced a throwaway on a screen pass. That’s something. There is also a 100 percent chance that my opinion of him is inflated because of his gorgeous hair. I wish they gave out Kruger wigs like the Cavs did for Anderson Varejao.

Richard: It’s difficult to say that about any Cleveland Browns defender this season, but Gipson shows potential for being a playmaker, having a nose for the ball and a head for the game. I’ve heard (and then read) all the coaches press conferences and I’ve read between the lines. The Browns seem to be committed to their schemes and the players are developing their noses and heads, but almost every one of the coaches’ statements indicate it’s all a work in progress. Plenty of good moments but plenty of teachable moments. Not much good news on that front. And by the way, even though I came under plenty of mean-spirited scrutiny and harassment in the 1960’s for having long hair, I think the Browns should all have short hair. They’d be faster. They’d have better peripheral vision. He said with a grin.


Originally published at www.waitingfornextyear.com on December 4, 2015.