The Browns Table: A Jacksonville Victory and Ratbird Revenge
Welcome to The Browns Table, a season-long look at the 2008 season for the Cleveland Browns from the point of view of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.
This discussion is not just meant for the contributing Browns fans. Please feel free to comment on any of the questions or any of our answers below.
We welcome any comments and an open discussion about the Browns below. If you would like a seat at the table leave me a note on my profile and we will try and get you in the rotation.
As always, thanks to Browns fans The Coop, Eric Lawhead, and Michael Taylor for their contributions this week.
Without further ado, let’s talk Browns football…
The Kellen Winslow situation... What are your thoughts? Whom do you feel is to blame? Where do he and the Browns go from here?
The Coop: When the story first broke, I was one of the few people defending the organization. Winslow's comments to the media were completely inappropriate. Regardless of whether Winslow was right in expressing his concern for problems with staph, publicly criticizing the organization is never the right thing to do.
(Incidentally, Winslow later stated that his illness had nothing to do with football.) I applauded Phil Savage for his swift decision to suspend Winslow, based solely on his comments.
Now that all of the details have come out and we know that a PR-staffer told Winslow to keep the staph infection quiet, my anger towards Winslow has softened. In light of the obvious error in judgment by the PR group, I was very impressed to hear that Randy Lerner and the rest of the organization took the heat and rescinded the suspension. This was the best resolution to a messy situation, and I do believe Winslow when he says he's "ready to move on."
With the Browns 2-0 without him, Kellen Winslow clearly needs the Browns more than they need him. It will be interesting to see how his contract situation is handled, especially given that he and Braylon Edwards will become free agents at around the same time.
I've always thought the Browns would sign Winslow and let Edwards walk, but now that might not be an option, given the hurt feelings that will probably still linger for years to come.
Eric Lawhead: I believe that Winslow was wrong for "airing the Browns' dirty laundry." I do feel that the Browns were to blame in the feelings that Winslow felt in regards to how the Browns management handled the situation. I would expect my boss, like me or not, to call or visit me in the hospital.
The Browns and Winslow need to really sit down, some how, without the virus, Winslow calls an agent, and really figure out what is going to happen. The Browns have the upper hand here; they still sign the paychecks. If Winslow wants the big money he feels he deserves, with either the Browns or any other team, he needs to still play and produce. And if he keeps getting suspended for running his mouth, that isn't going to happen.
Jeff Smirnoff: The Browns' organization as a whole and both parties themselves handled the situation horribly. The Browns come off badly because it appears that they were trying to hide the staph issue when it has been common knowledge for some time that they have had a recent history of infections. If someone in fact asked Kellen Winslow to keep it undisclosed, that is totally unprofessional.
Phil Savage did an awful job of addressing the issue by coming off as defensive and abrasive. He hung Romeo Crennel out to dry by not having a press conference and overreacted by handing out a punishment that did not fit the crime. He deserve a fine but not a game suspension.
Winslow was unprofessional in not attempting to have a sit down with either Savage or Crennel in house. Instead, he chose to publicly bash the organization, its leaders, and the team (indirectly). He should know by now that this is a business and that no matter how good you are most teams will not baby you.
Michael Taylor: My mind has been spinning over this whole mess. The more I think about it, I am madder at the Browns and how they can let this problem grow into such a distraction. I mean, the man had staph, and because it has been rampant in the Browns' locker room they want to conceal the problem?
I understand that Winslow should have came out with this in a better manner, but at the heart of it, I am concerned for why it had to be concealed in the first place. This is a growing problem. Move on, play football, and find a way to fix it.
The Browns topped the Jaguars, 23-17, despite being outgained in almost every offensive category. What did you think of the offense's performance?
The Coop: They managed the game, and sometimes that's all you need. They played the field-position game pretty well. Having no turnovers and no offensive penalties also usually makes up for being outgained by the other team. Anderson looked comfortable in the pocket, distributed the ball well, using several different receivers, and Jamal Lewis continues to be a beast.
Still, the Browns need to develop a killer-instinct on offense. Settling for two field goals in the fourth quarter when they had a fantastic opportunity to finish off Jacksonville is good, but not great, and they will not get away with this most weeks.
Both the playcalling and playmaking need to have a sense of urgency that says, "This game is over." Every game they win going forward is going to be a tight one. They've got to learn to put teams away.
Eric Lawhead: They were playing a very tough defense, and we all knew that going into the game. No matter what the stats are, a win is a win. At the beginning of the season, I had this and the Giants game as losses. It's a great win against a tough team. Maybe this will spring board them going forward.
Jeff Smirnoff: The Jaguars don’t look to be as good as they were last year, but they are still a quality ballclub. Any road win in the NFL is a good one. The offense sputtered a bit in the second half, but they were in a groove and efficient in the first half and were able to hold on for a win. A very good effort, but it would have been nice for them to put the game away earlier when they had the chance.
Michael Taylor: I, unfortunately, was unable to see the game due to a family function, so I cannot comment on the efficiency of the offense. Looking at the stats, it looks like D.A. again had some problems with his accuracy, but he did not turn the ball over, giving the Browns a chance to win a tight game. I still would like to see J-Lew get a few more carries a game.
It seems like every time the Browns face a big game with expectations they come out flat and scattered. It seems when they have nothing to lose they come out and just play good football. What do you attribute this to?
The Coop: Wow, if I could answer this, the Browns should hire me as Team Psychiatrist. I've got to believe that they really relish their role as underdog. This helps them play free and focused, and the opportunity to shock people truly motivates them.
Conversely, they are so eager to please us and others that our expectations sometimes get in their heads. They then play timid and are afraid to make a mistake, which always results in the direct opposite. A bad series or two tends to snowball on them for an entire game. They are always at their best when they are playing to win rather than playing "not to lose."
They have overcome so much adversity that you'd figure nothing would bother them. However, they tend to play to the perceived level of their competition. This speaks again to the killer-instinct that they need. Rather than wonder if they're better than the other team, they have to know and believe that they ARE the better team.
Eric Lawhead: It's just like most people. When your back is against the wall and everything is stressing you out, a majority of the time you will falter. They need to be able to come into games loose and with little to think about. They weren't picked to win that game nor the Giants game. They played loose and took them down.
Jeff Smirnoff: Coaching. This is the big issue that I have with the Browns. They have a decent amount of talent. It is the coaching staff’s job to have this team ready to place from the opening kick every week.
The defense has overachieved (kudos Mel Tucker), and the offense has been impacted by injuries, but every NFL team goes through that. The Browns have enough talent to hang with any team in the league, but it is the coaching staff’s failure to have them ready to go each week.
Michael Taylor: I think that they have played pretty good football since the bye week, even in Washington. That was one of those games that happen, and they played a very tough team. They have rallied after that embarrassing start to the season to prove that they are still competitive. The test will now be if they can bring this momentum home against Baltimore and win to get back to .500.
Shaun Rogers had nine tackles (all solo), a sack, and a blocked field goal versus Jacksonville. He came from Detroit with some baggage and was rewarded with a nice new contract. What are your thoughts on his play to date?
The Coop: The guy is a monster and a difference-maker. Phil Savage needs to be commended on this acquisition. People thought the Browns were giving up too much to get him, but Leigh Bodden has done nothing for Detroit, and he's playing far-better than you could expect a third-round draft pick to play as a rookie (which is also what they gave up to get him).
I don't think it's a reach to say that he is the team's defensive MVP so far this year. He is a major reason why the defense has played better than any of us expected. Sure, they give up big yards, but he's only one (okay, more than one) man, and he makes big plays when the Browns need them. He brings a physicality and nastiness that the Browns just haven't had.
And, with his play and good attitude, he has completely erased any concerns about that "baggage." He deserves a lot of credit as a professional, but I believe the organization, and specifically Romeo Crennel, deserve credit for getting 110 percent out of him every week.
Eric Lawhead: He's a big man. He does help clog some holes on the defensive line. It's taken some getting used to for him early, but he will continue to grow and help us out a lot. I expect him to make big plays down the stretch and carry that D-line.
Jeff Smirnoff: Exceeding expectations. Yes, he is a past Pro Bowl selection, but he has been playing without Robarie Smith and Shaun Smith. Corey Williams is still picking up the system. He is doing it with Louis Leonard and Santonio Thomas playing along side with him.
Maybe just getting out of Detroit, which is one of the few franchises that has been worse than the Browns, gave him a new lease on his career. He has been motivated and playing hard all season long.
Michael Taylor: He is a beast! He may be the best acquisition by the Browns since rejoining the league. I can't remember any Brown charging through the line as consistently as he has done.I hated to lose Leigh Bodden, but Rogers is totally worth it.
The Browns screwed the pooch in Baltimore in Week Three. What do they have to do in Week Nine to come out with a win and even their record at 4-4?
The Coop: Offensively, the Ravens can be thrown on. D.A. is going to have to step up and make the throws, and the receivers are going to have to catch it. They need to use the pass to set up the run and effectively manage the game.
But they must also mix-in some gadgets and wrinkles that keeps Baltimore off balance. I want to see Joshua Cribbs very active in the shotgun, under center, on reverses, whatever, many times. Chud has got to open up the playbook once again.
Defensively, they've got to pressure Flacco. Baltimore's running backs are good, but they are nothing like the RBs the Browns have faced over the last three weeks (Brandon Jacobs, Clinton Portis, Fred Taylor/Maurice Jones-Drew). They can give up yards in the run game if they constantly harass Flacco, bringing him to the ground and giving him no throwing lanes.
But more than anything else, they need to realize that even with all the adversity they've faced—injuries, inconsistency, people calling for the head coach to be fired, the QB to be benched—the prospects for this season significantly change with a win.
At 4-4, they will be tied with the Ravens for second in the AFC North, potentially just one game behind Pittsburgh, with a Steeler loss at Washington this Monday.
Baltimore is not a better team than the Browns. The Browns need to go out, truly KNOW that they are going to win, and refuse to lose, period.
Eric Lawhead: Stop the run and hit Joe Flacco. They don't need 50 sacks. They just need to knock him down, or put a hand on his chest every time he drops back to throw. Make him know they are always around him. Make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket and try and get him to make some mistakes.
Willis McGahee could gain some yards, but they need to limit his yards. They should be fine. After this win, I've got great confidence in the defense and the Anderson, yes Anderson, led offense is starting to come around. Browns 24-10.
Jeff Smirnoff: Stop the Ravens’ three-headed monster on the ground of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and Le’Ron McClain and make Joe Flacco beat them. Flacco has been better than average for a rookie, but his play on the road has been much worse than at home. Baltimore passed way too much in the first meeting, and they won’t make that mistake again unless the Browns force their hand.
On offense, they have to play their game. Creative playcalling with some shots down the field is key. It is tough to run against the Ravens, but Jamal Lewis is always motivated against his former team. If the Browns can get a decent lead at some point, it will be difficult for the Ravens to keep pace with them.
Michael Taylor: I believe that if they come back out with the passion and desire in their eyes that they have of late, that the Browns will win this game. Baltimore, as we all know, has a stout defense, but the Browns' "D" has improved since the last meeting, and I believe that a big day by Jamal Lewis is in order against that tough run defense.
Lewis had a good game averaging 4.7 yards per carry the first meeting but only had 14 attempts, as the Browns had to pass, coming from behind.
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