Cleveland Browns: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8

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Cleveland Browns: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns are now 3-4 and have lost two straight games. Their disastrous road trip will conclude in Kansas City, where the undefeated Chiefs await.

Despite quarterback Brandon Weeden having done nothing in the past two weeks to help a putrid offense, Jason La Canfora of CBS says that all signs point to him getting another start.

It makes no sense.

The Browns are plummeting in the AFC North standings. They have a good enough defense to win games, but they need someone who can take care of the football. Yet they are going to stick with Weeden, who has become a liability on the field.

If the Browns were truly trying to win, then they would have made the switch to backup Jason Campbell. Even if they don’t like what he brings to the table, he would take some pressure off a roster that must compensate for Weeden and his performance every week.

How about looking on the free-agent market? Vince Young is available. How about, dare I say, Tim Tebow? Yes, it is getting that desperate in Cleveland.

Something has to change, as the Browns are looking at a three-game losing streak and possibly letting the season slip through their grasp.

 

AFC North Standings

Team

Win

Loss

Tie

Win %

Home

Away

Division

Streak

Bengals

5

2

0

.714

3-0-0

2-2-0

1-1-0

Won 3

Ravens

3

4

0

.329

2-1-0

1-3-0

1-1-0

Lost 2

Browns

3

4

0

.329

2-2-0

1-2-0

1-1-0

Lost 2

Steelers

2

4

0

.333

1-2-0

1-2-0

1-1-0

Won 2

 

Remember that 0-4 start the Pittsburgh Steelers had? Yeah, it seems like a long time ago now. The Steelers have won two in a row and took out the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. It looks like Pittsburgh’s defense has found new life, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is doing just enough to steal victories.

The Cincinnati Bengals grabbed an impressive win on Sunday in Detroit. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. If he plays at that level, they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They have now won three straight games and five of their last six.

 

Injury Report

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

DE Billy Winn (quad): did not play on Sunday; status update on Wednesday.

LB Brandon Magee (oblique): did not play on Sunday; status update on Wednesday.

Billy Winn has now been out one full month and hasn’t seen action since the Browns Week 3 win at Minnesota. Winn is approaching the end of his injury timetable and should be returning to practice soon.

Even if he returns to practice this week, it is unlikely he will play Sunday at Kansas City. The Browns are being very cautious with his injury and will probably allow him the extra week of rest as the bye week approaches.

 

What Must Improve

Brandon Weeden's performance

Brandon Weeden needs to improve on literally everything he does. Sunday’s performance was as bad as it gets. His 48.6 QB rating was second-worst in the NFL, and of all quarterbacks who played the entire game, he threw for the least amount of yards.

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What’s even more concerning than his execution is his demeanor. He seems defeated on the field, and it’s rubbing off on his teammates. His head is always hanging; he is shrugging, slouching and walking back to the sidelines.

The quarterback is supposed to be the leader of the football team. He isn’t supposed to be the player whom the team has to carry to the finish line and win in spite of his poor performance.

Going into Week 7, Weeden had the second-worst QBR in the NFL at 28.6 according to FootballOutsiders.com. It is tough to find a positive in Weeden’s game right now.

Not only is he playing horribly, but he doesn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes. The interception he threw against Detroit, which was bad enough to have Adam Redling of Yahoo! Sports wonder if it was the worst NFL play ever, didn’t teach him anything. He tried it again on Sunday.

This time it was not intercepted, but it was a very similar play and an unacceptable decision.

 

Finishing plays on defense

The defensive line and outside linebackers are still putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but they have not been able to finish off the sacks in the last few weeks.

The Browns are still seventh in the league with 20 sacks but have managed to log just two in the past two weeks. Outside linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger have been stymied in the pass rush, and the defensive line cannot get to the quarterbacks quickly enough to take them down.

Teams are no longer trying to look downfield against the Browns. They are instead looking for shorter, underneath routes which expose the inside linebackers' lack of speed and coverage ability.

Until the Browns can regenerate that pressure, opposing quarterbacks are going to throw all over them, like Matthew Stafford did two weeks ago and Aaron Rodgers did this week.

 

The team’s sense of urgency

It seems as though everyone on the Browns' sideline watched idly as their fourth loss of the season approached like a freight train. There was no sense of urgency from Weeden, Rob Chudzinski, offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s play-calling or the defense as a whole.

Even though the season seems to be slipping away, the Browns are still going to stick with Weeden as the starting quarterback. Where is the urgency? Where is the win-now mentality?

Is the front office content on riding this season out with Weeden and improving their draft position? If so, isn’t that an insult to fans who are still paying to watch a team that is in the thick of the playoff hunt in the AFC?

It’s time for the Browns' regime to finally put their money where their mouth is and push to win football games. They have two first-round draft picks, two third-round picks and two fourth-round picks in the next draft. Win now and worry about moving up for a quarterback in the offseason.

Isn’t that why they acquired all those picks in the first place?

If the team had only one victory, I could understand improving draft position, but they are one game under .500 and have already beaten the division leader, Cincinnati.

It’s time for the front office to earn their money.

 

(All quotes and observations were gathered first hand unless otherwise noted)

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