Eagles-Browns, Week 1: Five key matchups, and a game prediction

1 – The Browns OL vs the Eagles DL

When we previewed the Giants-Cowboys game earlier this week, a key matchup was the Cowboys’ OL vs the Giants’ DL.  That’ll pretty much be a recurring theme throughout the entire season with the Eagles and Giants, as opposing teams are going to worry about their enormously talented defensive lines for the next 16 weeks (and possibly beyond).  The first team the Eagles’ DL will test is Cleveland.  Back in July, Adam Caplan was asked by one of his followers on Twitter to name his Top 5 OLs in the NFL.  His answer:

Among the above teams he noted is the Browns, who are a very young and talented group.  LT Joe Thomas is among the best in the game.  He and 3 of his OL teammates all have something in common:

What do they all have in common?  (Jeopardy music playing)…

They all started all 16 games last year.  In fact, Thomas, Pinkston, and Mack played all 1087 snaps last season, a rarity in the NFL.  It’s a young group with good continuity that will only get better.  Pinkston is listed as a tackle above, but he played LG all of last year next to Joe Thomas, and will do so again this year.  If the unit has a weak link, it would be Pinkston.

At RT, the Browns are starting rookie Mitchell Schwartz, the Browns’ 2nd round pick out of California.  In the 3rd preseason game against Philly, Schwartz did a good job on Cullen Jenkins, who actually started at LDE instead of his typical DT spot.  However, he struggled dealing with the speedy Phillip Hunt, and was owned by Brandon Graham.  He’s going to have his hands full all day with Jason Babin.

2 – The Browns depleted linebacking corps vs. the Eagles rushing attack

The Browns have a laundry list of issues at LB:

  • Chris Gocong: Tore his Achilles, put on injured reserved, done for the season.  His replacement at WLB is Kaluka Maiava.
  • Scott Fujita: Suspended by the NFL for 3 games for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal.  Fujita’s fight against the NFL is ongoing.  He thinks he’ll play Week 1, althought that is doubtful.  His temporary replacement at SLB would have been the next guy on this list.
  • James Michael-Johnson: Was the projected starter when Gocong went down, until his sustained an oblique injury in the final preseason game.  It appears that “JMJ” could miss the first 4 weeks of the season.  His replacement would be Craig Robertson.

Add in that starting DT Phil Taylor is on the PUP list after having surgery for a torn pectoral in May, and it will be difficult for the Browns to stop LeSean McCoy and the Eagles rushing attack.

3 – The Browns secondary vs. the Eagles receiving corps

Joe Haden was the 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft, and in his first two years in the NFL he has transformed himself into one of the best CBs in the game.  The NFL suspended Haden for 4 games, which he appealed, and there appears to be confusion over whether or not Haden will play or not.

If Haden is indeed not going to play, the Browns will be left with Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson as their starting CBs.  Brown is now 33 years old and very much on the downside of his career.  It will be difficult for him to keep up with the speed of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.  He’ll start regardless of Haden’s status.  Patterson has bounced around the league as a journeyman reserve, and is on his 5th team in Cleveland, his 2nd year there.

The duo of Brown and Haden stands a chance of slowing down the Eagles receiving corps.  The duo of Brown and Patterson would very likely be in for a long day.

4 – The Browns’ rushing attack vs. the Eagles front seven

As noted above, the Browns have a good, young offensive line.  Behind that line at RB is rookie Trent Richardson, the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 draft.  Richardson has surgery about 4 weeks ago to remove a loose piece of cartilage from his knee.  On Monday he returned to practice, but his status remains up in the air for Sunday.  If he can’t go, Montario Hardesty will see the bulk of the carries.

Take this for what it’s worth but here was the yardage Hardesty gained on his carries against the Eagles in the preseason game they played a couple weeks ago:

  • 1st drive: -4, 6, 2, 6, 3, -2
  • 2nd drive: 1
  • 3rd drive: 0 (fumble, recovered by the Eagles)
  • 4th drive: 0
  • 5th drive: 4

The Browns’ starting receivers are Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi.  Here were their numbers last season:

Player Rec Yards YPC TD
Greg Little 61 709 11.6 2
Mohamed Massaquoi 31 384 12.4 2

The Eagles ranked 16th against the rush in 2011, and they hope they vastly improved at least two LB spots with the acquisitions of SAM LB Mychal Kendricks through the draft and MIKE LB DeMeco Ryan in a trade with the Texans.  Still, the run game is probably the Browns’ best chance in this one.  If the Browns can’t mount a serious rushing attack against Philly, they could be in big trouble.

5 – The Browns special teams vs. Themselves

The Browns had two punts blocked this preseason, and one was by the Eagles in Week 3.  Also, last year, according to Terry Pluto of the Clevelan Plain Dealer, the Browns had a number of other special teams malfunctions:

3 FG attempts blocked

20 special teams penalties last year

Allowed both a kick return and punt return to go for a TD

If you’re an Eagles fan, my recommendation would be to casually note to your friends before the kickoff that the Browns had all sort of special teams problems last year and during the preseason this year.  If nothing goes wrong during the course of the game for their special teams, nobody will ever remember you said it. f it does, you can go, “Seeeeeeee?

Game prediction

Eagles, big.  This Browns team is already one of the worst teams in the NFL (maybe the worst), and they’re dealing with an assortment of injuries, suspensions, and rookies playing critical positions, including QB.  37-10.

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  1. Triple J says:

    Castillo will figure a way to screw up this defense and make this game closer than what it should be.

  2. Patrick says:

    Jimmy, bloggingthebeast needs a logo! All my bookmarked tabs have one except your site!

  3. Mike G. in CT says:

    There will be no predictions from this end after making a call in the comments for the post on the opener that made me appear to be one of these:


    Yes, Derf Diggy and David Does Dallas, this would be an Eagles fan apologizing.

    but still, Go Birds!

  4. AJ says:

    Is it me or do the Browns seem like a team comprised of old eagles and rookies
    Ex Birds: Gocong, Brown, Patterson, Parker
    Rookies: Richardson, Weedon, Schawrtz, Gordon

    1. mjoedgaard says:

      There GM, HC, part owner and OC all are ex-eagles as well

    2. Todd B says:

      Good point. They are no longer the Browns, they are now the Golden Eagles.

      1. David_Does_Dallas says:

        More like bald eagles.

        1. ATG says:

          Or spread eagles.

  5. ameero2 says:

    hey jimmy can we get a Giants D-line vs Cowboys O-line film breakdown. I’m interested to see if the cowboys put it together, or if the giants star pass rushers (with the exception of JPP) just disappeared.

    1. Yeah, I was hoping to take a closer look at the Cowboys’ OL at some point. I haven’t re-watched the game yet, but when I do, that will be a focus.

      1. ameero2 says:

        Cool Beans.

      2. Todd B says:

        Also, look at the holding. My impression is that both DL were held repeatedly but a buddy of mine insists only the Giants were held.

  6. Dan in Philly says:

    If the Eagles lose, what will it mean??

    1. slandog says:

      It means their record will be 0-1.

      1. Dan in Philly says:

        How very witty 🙂
        I just am painfully aware Andy is 8 losses away from losing his job, and is the Birds come out flat and somehow lose, there will be a countdown clock in every players and fans heads. here’s hoping we don’t have to worry about that.

  7. ATLeagle says:

    So the Browns have 2 players that are suspended but pending appeal. How is this fair to either team? Apparently Haden should have been informed Tuesday if he could not play, and if he could then no one should have known about the test/appeal… obviously something didnt work right there.

  8. What’s the over/under on sacks? I’m gonna put it at 4.5. I’ll take the under at 4. Browns get down big after we get to Weeden 4 times by midway through the 3rd Q and they just keep running the ball after that to end the game quickly without Weeden absorbing any more punishment.

  9. Todd B says:

    For the Browns, forget about the receivers, the key for them is to get to Vick.

    Vick has what, 12 snaps this entire preseason? Will he be rusty? Will he have happy feet? Will he be on the same page has the rest of the offense?

    The Eagles could dominate every facet of the game except could still lose if Vick commits stupid turnovers or can’t convert 3rd downs.

    1. slandog says:

      I agree 100% with you. If they can get any pressure on Vick it will help them a lot. Like you said Vick’s had a handfull of snaps this preseason and he looked terrible on just about every one of them.

      I see him running a lot this game just because he’ll have happy feet. Unless Shady can get going on the ground I think Vick may have a long day……..or at least a long first half until he can get his feet wet again.

  10. Tracer Bullet says:

    The Eagles should have a good day passing even if Haden plays. Brown was never a speed demon and even if he was, I don’t know who’s going to cover Avant, Celek or McCoy. Cleveland only had 32 sacks last season so it’s not like the pass rush can protect the secondary. Of course, I’ve expected big wins against bad teams before, only to be frustrated by three hours of offensive ineptitude.

    1. mjoedgaard says:

      Dimitri Patterson is there nickle CB, so he got the job of handling Avant. Brown cant keep up with Maclin and as we saw on the Haden interception, he cant keep up with Jackson if the ball is thrown perfect. Also they got no LBs/Safeties there can cover McCoy, Celek, Harbor, Lewis, Brown and Havili.

      1. Tracer Bullet says:

        I wasn’t clear. What I meant was that, even if Haden is there to cover Jackson (I assume), Brown can’t run with Maclin. And if Haden doesn’t play, well, I remember what they did to Detroit a few years ago and it may be even uglier than that.

        1. ATLeagle says:

          So I am totally frightened that the game plan is going to be all on abusing the secondary over the top, nothing but 7 step drops and 10 second routes, and we will all be pissed that Vick doesnt release the ball. This is starting to feel like our “what the fuck” game already .

          1. ATG says:

            Really, it might be for the best to get it out of the way early, so it isn’t hanging over us all season. And if we can combine it with our frustratingly slow start game and our that’s what happens when you count on young guys game, it should be smooth sailing from there.

            1. ATLEagle says:

              sounds like a plan. I will be plenty drunk to deal with this.

  11. GermanBird says:

    If this prediction is by any means as precise as your forecast on the opener, then I can feel some real nervousness coming up.

  12. David_Does_Dallas says:

    Go Browns.

  13. Dez Bryant's Probation Officer says:

    Shouldn’t it be the “Clevelan Plain Ealer”?

    No “D” to be found.

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