Cleveland Browns: 6 Biggest Storylines Coming out of Week 1

Brian BelkoContributor IIISeptember 13, 2011

Cleveland Browns: 6 Biggest Storylines Coming out of Week 1

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    Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns had an up and down game in Week 1 and several big storylines made themselves known to fans of the team.

    Here are six of the biggest storylines about the Cleveland Browns that came out of their loss against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first game of the 2011 season.

Penalties

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    Penalties killed the Cleveland Browns in their Week 1 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The first quarter was especially bad as the Browns were tagged with seven penalties, including several false starts. Those penalties gave the Bengals great field position on several drives which led to them building a quick 13-0 lead.

    In total, the Browns accumulated 11 penalties for 72 yards, three of which gave the Bengals first downs.

    The number of penalties must be decreased going into Week 2 if the Browns want to earn their first victory against the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts.

The Offensive Line

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    The Browns' offensive line really struggled in the game against the Bengals. Several false start penalties, including one by Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, and poor pocket protection really influenced the outcome of the game.

    Quarterback Colt McCoy was sacked twice and hit six times and it seemed like a lot more than that while watching the game.

    The running game also struggled as the Browns had 83 total rushing yards on 26 attempts for an average of 3.2 yards.

    The offensive line needs to dramatically improve in their quarterback protection and in their run blocking for the Cleveland offense to be more successful next week.

Colt McCoy

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    Against the Cincinnati Bengals, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy completed 19 of 40 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed three times for 11 yards and finished the day with a 70.1 passer rating.

    McCoy showed sparks during several stretches of the game, but was unable to maintain any sort of consistency, mostly because of the pressure his offensive line allowed to get through. The pocket collapsed quickly and he was forced to make plays with his feet and throw on the run.

    However, McCoy did not have a terrible game. He made several great throws as he led his team to 17 unanswered points in the second and third quarters. He was also plagued by several dropped passes and his interception was a ball that slipped out his hand after it had rained.

    More consistent play from Colt McCoy will go a long way towards getting the Browns in the win column. 

Joe Haden

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    Cleveland Browns' cornerback Joe Haden had a monster game on defense. Haden had three tackles, one sack, and a remarkable five passes defended.

    Those five pass break-ups tie for the most passes defended in one game in the past two seasons.

    Haden is quickly emerging as a playmaker and leader on the defensive side of the ball. It looks like Haden has the talent to be a number one cornerback in the NFL. That will certainly help the Browns limit passing damage in the rest of their games this season.

D'Qwell Jackson

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    Browns' linebacker D'Qwell Jackson had a huge impact on defense against the Bengals. After being injured for most of the last two seasons, Jackson is not showing any ill effects from his multiple surgeries.

    Jackson finished the game with 11 tackles, two sacks, one quarterback hit, and one forced fumble. He was a force to be reckoned with across the field and seemed to be in on most of the tackles in the game.

    The Browns are relatively thin at the linebacker position, but Jackson's level of play didn't make it seem that way. There is no reason to not expect much more of the same from him throughout the 2011 season.

Special Teams

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    The special teams unit of the Browns had its ups and downs against the Bengals in Week 1.

    The main sore spot was new punter Richmond McGee. McGee made the team in training camp after starting punter Reggie Hodges went down for the season with an injury. Up until the Bengal's game, McGee had never kicked the ball in a regular season game in the NFL.

    His nerves really showed as he shanked his first ever punt and finished the game with eight punts for an abysmal average of 36 yards. His longest punt went for 48 yards. It would not be a surprise if the Browns brought an experienced punter in as soon as possible.

    The bright spot on special teams was unsurprisingly kick returner Joshua Cribbs. Despite the new NFL kick-off rules limiting Cribbs to only three returns, he still managed to average 30 yards on his returns. One of those returns was a 51-yarder that led to the Browns first touchdown.

    Cribbs also returned six punts for 58 total yards. One of his punt returns looked like a sure touchdown until fellow Brown Greg Little threw a block that pushed a Bengal defender right into Cribbs.

    Needless to say, Cribbs is a huge talent on special teams for the Browns and will look to make plays on offense this season as well.