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Looking Ahead to Browns/Broncos

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer ISeptember 19, 2009

CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 13:  Joshua Cribbs #16 of the Cleveland Browns scores a touchdown as Eric Wright #24 celebrates against the Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Browns made a poor showing the first week of pre-season against a good team, following that up with a fine performance against a much weaker team.

The similarities between the first two weeks of the regular season and the first two weeks of the preseason are pretty obvious from a scheduling standpoint. Now let’s hope they stay similar from a performance standpoint.

After wetting the bed in Green Bay, head coach Eric Mangini took his team to task the following week and a much better looking team took the field against Detroit. Granted, it’s Detroit, but there was no question the Browns LOOKED better.

The Vikings, barring an epic collapse or rash of critical injuries, are most likely playoff-bound. The Broncos, barring a year like the 2008 Miami Dolphins, probably are destined to spend January at home.

Facing a much weaker run defense, look for Jamal Lewis to turn it up this week. With no Williams Wall to contend with, I would be surprised if Lewis doesn’t have more yards this week.

The offensive line needs to show more focus for obvious reasons. The amount of pre-snap penalties last week added on to an already miserable afternoon.

The two areas that need to show the most improvement this week, though, are special teams and coaching, specifically offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s play calling.

Special teams play last week resulted in Minnesota getting great field position far too many times with an offense that can kill you 12 different ways.

As stated in my earlier columns, Daboll’s play calling was almost criminal vs. the Vikings. Granted, Daboll is a rookie, but through the pre-season and now one week of the regular season, I want to ask Daboll if he understands the basic concept of moving the ball forward.

While Mangini took the blame for the Wildcat formation on the goal line, it’s a team effort and both coaches need to do better.

I grow tired of watching plays that end before the ball is snapped because I read the play sitting in my living room.

As a fan of Ohio teams, I get tired of watching Ohio State and the Browns continually run offenses that are too conservative and get shut down when facing talented defenses.

Daboll talked in his press conference this week about things not working out “the way we planned.” That may be because the plan wasn’t very good.

While Daboll revealed they have practiced with Joshua Cribbs throwing out of the Wildcat formation, its absence during the game was the main reason the goal line play calling did not work.

Cribbs wisely stated it was his job to get in the end zone on the first try, but the coaches, in trying to run the same play twice, doomed the drive to failure.

This can’t happen. You have to be smarter than that.

Mangini preaches smart football. Smart football was not being played on offense last week.

Moving on . . .

I’m not talking about the quarterbacks. Our quarterback knows what he needs to do.

On the defensive side, I noticed last week Shaun Rogers being lined up as a middle linebacker on a few plays. That was an interesting turn of events and I look forward to seeing what Rob Ryan does with this defense this week.

I’m truly excited about the possibilities of this defense, even considering the limited talent pool we have. A good coach brings out the best of the players he has and can make a poor talent pool function effectively.

The safety blitzes last week were nice to see, and I’m hoping to see Kyle Orton on his back more than a couple of times this week.

The defense was expected to be one of the Browns glaring holes this year, but Ryan and Mangini have got that defense playing smart so far.

If it weren’t for the defense just becoming flat-out exhausted in the second half vs. the Vikings, that game would’ve been a lot closer.

I look forward to both sides of the team coming together and producing wins.

The Broncos, now coached by Josh McDaniels, are a team just as much in transition as the Browns. This is a game the Browns definitely can win, and a game I will truly be upset about if they lose.

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