Today in Spanning Browns Town we will continue our examination of the Cleveland Browns 2009 regular season schedule. On Monday We previewed the Browns' opponents for Week One of the season, the Minnesota Vikings, and predicted that the Vikings would win. This week we will look at the Week Two opponent for the Browns.
Denver or the "Mile High City," as it is also known by, has been a house of horror's for the Browns and their fans. Fans who can remember all too well the misfortunes of the Browns during the playoffs in Denver spanning the late 80's. Browns fans are still haunted by those memories that occurred in Mile High Stadium.
In the Browns' last trip to Denver back in December of 2003 they did not fare much better. The Browns lost to the Broncos in overtime 23-20. That ironically was also the final of the 1987 AFC Championship Game, which both Browns and Broncos fans alike remember as "The Fumble."
That time has come and gone. The Broncos, much like the Browns, will have begun a brand new era when the Browns come to visit them once agian in Week Two. How will the Browns match up with the Broncos? Let's find out.
Outside of a some outbursts from both Shaun Rogers and Joshua Cribbs, things have been fairly quiet for Eric Mangini as he has taken over the Browns.
Josh McDaniels wishes he had the same type of tranquility. Not long after he arrived on the scene, McDaniels had to deal with a very angry Jay Cutler. Cutler became an angry after he found out about McDaniels plans to deal him and aquire former Patriots QB Matt Cassel. Cutler was eventually dealt, and for a while, things seemed to settle in Denver Players finally seemed to be buying into McDaniels " No one is bigger then the team" motto.
Then, out of nowhere, came the recent incident with Brandon Marshall. How will this end? And how will the season play out for McDaniels and the Broncos? It should be an interesting season in Denver.
Kyle Orton, who came along in the deal that sent Cutler to the Chicago Bears, will compete for the starting job with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Chris Simms.
The Broncos like that Kyle Orton brings a winning record to the table; he also has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 2,972 yards in his career and has a 79.6 rating. Pretty promising numbers from a guy who split time with a guy who was either hurt or inconsistent.
However, Orton' biggest flaw is his decision-making; he threw 12 interceptions in limmited playing time. That type of mistake-prone quarterback will struggle in McDaniels's system.
Word is that Orton has shown decent arm strength coming out of mini-camp, but he needs to be able to show that he can get rid of the ball quickly.
Many felt that Chris Simms, in his last months with the Titans, threw the ball like he did in 2004 when he had a very good season. It is said that his shoulder problems are no long an issue, but he still remains an underdog to Orton.
Inevitably, the quarterback who makes fewer mistakes during camp and preseason will likely receive the job.
The Broncos also drafted Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater. Brandstater had an excellent career at Fresno State, however he does not figure to be much of a factor in this year's QB derby unless there is an injury to Orton or Simms. Still, he could be a very viable tool for the Broncos future plans provided that he is with the team that long.
ADVANTAGE: Seems to be even.
Although observers within both teams may have some idea who will emerge as their starter, there does not seem to be clear advantage. At least, if there is, no one is saying anything. We will have to see how things shape out at training camp.
The Broncos seem to have a wide array of choices at their disposal. The backfield is very crowded with first-round pick Knowshon Moreno along with Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, and J.J. Arrington.
Moreno seems to be the front-runner at the position, the Broncos believe that he is the total package, and he has good pass-protection skills. Since the Broncos' quarterbacks could use all the protection they can get, those skills might make Moreno an every-down back.
The Browns don't have a backfield that will punish you, but they do have one back in Jamal Lewis, who, when healthy, is a home-run threat. Plus, as you will see later on, the Broncos' defensive line is weak, and that is good news for the Browns.
Although crowded and experienced, the Broncos backfield lacks a home-run hitter. LaMont Jordan, Corell Buckhalter, and J.J. Arrington all have their limitations. Jordan is older and may not be able to carry the work load he once did. Buckhalter and Arrington are both battling knee issues. Moreno is probably going to get the balk of work. It will give him a lot of experience, but he will not have much help.
For now at least, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal seem to be the team's duo at WR with Brandon Stokley at the slot.
Royal had a very impressive rookie season last year and was very reliable. Royal had 91 receptions for 980 yards and averaged 10.8 yards per catch with 5 touchdowns. Marshall was not as reliable, but he was still very productive with 104 receptions, 1,256 yards, 12.2 yards per catch, and 6 touchdowns.
Marshall does bring some off-the-field baggage with him, but he is also tough and competitive. He makes up on-the-field production makes up for his misjudgments off the field.
Moreover, Stokley has always proven to be a productive and reliable guy.
Jabar Gaffney was brought in because he has some familiarity with Josh McDaniels and the offense he wants to run.
The Broncos also have two huge tight ends in Daniel Graham and Richard Quinn that will be great targets for the new QB.
Why? If Brandon Marshall, who has been complaining and saying wants out of Denver, gets his wish, this unit is going to be in big trouble.
Sure, they will have Eddie Royal, but there will not be much else. Jabar Gaffney may be somewhat handy, but he is not elite receiver.
If Marshall does come back, there will be more matchup problems, and the Browns secondary will be in for a long day.
That said, I like what the Browns wide receivers brings to the table. They're younger, and encouraging news has come from the Browns about rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massiqoui. Both look to be capable of playing major roles in this offense.
Steve Heiden has always been a useful at tight end and second-year man Martin Rucker will be given a chance to make a impact at tight end.
When Mike Shanahan was in charge, he liked to use undersized, athletic lineman. Unfortunately for this unit, those days are over. McDaniels wants to run more of a power game. To do that, the unit will have to include more 300-plus linemen.
McDaniels was not left with much to work with. He does have some starting blockers with right tackles Ryan Harris and Ryan Clady. Other then that there is just not much. McDaniels will have to spend the next couple of drafts and free agency periods trying to upgrade his offensive line.
What the Browns' running game will not change much. Plus, their left side is solid. and the question marks on the right were addressed, even though there are still problems.
This position is a mess for the Broncos and could even be worse than the Browns. The defense is transitioning to a 3-4 scheme, but they really do not have someone who can command a double-team in the middle of the field.
The Broncos chose not to address the position during the draft because they did not value the draft's pool of defensive lineman. That will hurt them this season.
It will be interesting to see how this transition works out because there is not much that this unit did well, either defending the pass or run. They did take Robert Ayers, a DE from Tennessee with their second pick in the draft, and that could eventually work out. They still need a lot more though.
The Browns have more at the defensive line spot, and they have more experience with the 3-4 scheme. In this particular situation, considering the condition of the Broncos' offensive line situation, the Browns defensive line has the best chance of success.
This unit is going to have to make a slew of plays against the run because they do not have much of an answer at the nose tackle position.
Since Elvis Dumervil has a chance to be very effective in the passing game because he is able to get leverage on bigger players due his ability and reach, he will be playing on the outside with Jarvis Moss opposite him.
However, it is said that during mini-camp, Moss struggled, especially when having to be involved with the passing game. That's not good news for the Broncos. They will also give special teamer Darrel Reid a look at outside linebacker. Boss Bailey will also be on the outside, but he had micro-fracture surgery and not much can be expected from him.
As far as inside linebacker, a familiar face for Browns fans will be in the mix for the Broncos, Andra Davis. Davis had his times where he was very productive in a Browns uniform, but he really struggled the last few seasons It will be interesting to see what he can do with a change of scenery. His partner inside will be a man named D.J. Williams.
The Browns replaced what they lost with players that are familiar with what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants to do. Whether they are actually upgrades or not remains to be seen.
If Kamerion Wimbley gets going, he will be a nightmare, and they have a proven productive player with D'Qwell Jackson. The Browns don't have as many question marks as the Broncos do, but they do have their own questions.
The Broncos have two Pro-Bowlers in this unit. The first is Champ Bailey. Bailey is the kind of player who, in the past, completely took away a team's ability to throw to one side of the field. Lately, he has had to battle elbow issues. That said, he is still the teams No. 1 corner, and he's still very dangerous.
Dre' Bly is gone, but the team did go out and sign Andre' Goodman to replace him. Goodman could be just as good as Bly.
Brian Dawkins was the second Pro-Bowle add to this unit, and the Broncos think that he is a significant upgrade, which, if he performs like he did in Philadelphia, he will be.
Matt Prater has a very powerful leg but needs to work on his accuracy. He struggled to make field goals from 40-49 yards. Many feel that he let the criticism from fans and coaches go to his head. The Broncos could be looking to make a change at some point. His leg strength makes him valuable for kickoffs
The reputation of punter Brett Kern is that he does not have a consistent ball drop, but many feel that he can be in the league for a while.
Look for Eddie Royal to return punts, he has all the tools to be very special and a big factor in that role. Kickoffs could go to J.J. Arrington, but the Broncos say that will not be decided until the preseason.
Special teams are something that have been the one constant with the Browns. Phil Dawson is as solid as kickers can come. Dave Zastuilds is also solid as they come for a punter.
The Browns have one of the best kick returners in the NFL.
THE LAST WORD
There is no reason why the Browns cannot win this game. Where the Broncos lack ability, the Browns are strong. They will be in a higher altitude, and the weather is likely to be warm, so endurance will be a factor.
If the Mangini regime wants to be known as different than Crennel's regime, they need to win games that are winnable, and this is one of them. They may have to grind it out and play a close, down-to-the-wire game, but I still like their chances. It will be a good win for them and a confidence booster as well as something that they can hang their hats on.
Browns Predicted Record After Week 2: 1-1
In the next Spanning Browns Town Season Preview, we will continue our look at the Browns 2009 Schedule as we look at their opponent for Weeks 3 and 9, the hated Baltimore Ravens.
Greg Cooksey spans Browns Town every Monday and Friday and whenever there is anything Cleveland Browns to talk about.