Manziel to start, McCown still out. Browns-Titans preview

The Browns return home to Cleveland to play the Titans this week after a disappointing loss away to the Jets in New York. The Browns are hoping for a better performance on both offense and defence after last week’s poor showing. The Browns will be hoping for a repeat of the win they got last year when Brian Hoyer lead a big comeback for a one point win.

image

The big news for the Browns is that Josh McCown hasn’t passed the NFL mandated concussion protocol so Johnny Manziel will be starting Sunday. Coach Pettine had said that if McCown was passed he would start despite not having practiced all week. With McCown out all week, Johnny Manziel has been taking first team snaps as he prepared to make only his third start, only one more than Titans QB Marcus Mariota. Manziel seems a lot more prepared this year than he did for his first start last year against the Bengals, saying so himself earlier in the week, “I think it was a good week. I am extremely comfortable. I think everyone that has been in there this week feels really good about what our scheme is and what our plan is and looks forward to Sunday and getting ready for the game.” Manziel vowed to improve after last week’s impromptu performance where he had no time to practice due to his elbow soreness. Austin Davis who is only two weeks with the Browns will be Manziel’s backup against the Titans.

image

The Browns will get a boost this week with the return of GM Ray Farmer’s prized free agent receiver Dwayne Bowe. Bowe missed week one with a hamstring injury but will definitely play in week two. Bowe could be a big help to a Browns offense that really struggled with red zone offense last week with his size creating a difficult matchup for any defender.

Defensively, the Browns suffered a blow with the news that OLB Scott Solomon will be out for 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain after injuring it against the Jets last week. Solomon had been one of the stars of this year’s camp after being picked up as free agent last season and working his way into the rotation as the season progressed. Solomon will be replaced by first round pick Barkevious Mingo and rookie Nate Orchard, who sacked Titans QB Marcus Mariota last year when Utah played Oregon.

The Browns will be hoping to stop Marcus Mariota from performing like he did last week against the Buccaneers when he threw for 4 touchdowns. It is however important to say that this is a Bucs team that will adamantly come out playing the same Tampa 2 defence for the entire game even when it clearly isn’t working. The Browns managed to keep the Jets from completing any passes to their tight ends but they will face a much bigger challenge this week when they face Delanie Walker who is one of the better tight ends in the league.

The match up also includes an early return to Cleveland for RB Terrence West, only two weeks after he was traded to Tennessee for a seventh round draft pick. West never really fit in with the Browns after maturity and consistency issues and might have been cut if wasn’t traded.

Hopefully with a week of practice Johnny Manziel can help lead the Browns to victory over the Titans who finished with the second worst record in the NFL last season.

Browns lay an egg, Manziel plays and Benjamin shines

It didn’t take long for the Browns to give up the pretence that they’d improved over the summer, it only took them two quarters of moderately good play before they began playing like the Browns again.

The Browns got off to a pretty good start, working the ball methodically down the field and spread out the targets. The Tight Ends in particular were very involved. The Browns controlled the ball and worked it down to the Red Zone but after a false start and two incomplete pass the Browns were left with 3rd & Goal from the 14.

Then disaster struck. As Josh McCown, who was scrambling for the third time on the same drive, dived for the end zone he was hit by two Jets Linebackers, fumbled and got concussed. Who was to fill the void?

image

Johnny F****** Football. After not having practiced with the first team since the third preseason game due to a sore elbow, Manziel was called upon to come in and lead the Browns. Things got off to a good start as Manziel connected with Travis Benjamin, who was streaking down the sideline after Antonio Cromartie bit on a hesitation move. The 54 yard pass was only Manziel’s second of the game. The Browns then proceeded to break the record for the longest PAT in NFL history after having two penalties called.

image

The Jets scored on their next drive despite a Tashaun Gipson interception. Gipson managed to pick off Ryan Fitzpatrick but in the ensuing return lost the ball after Brandon Marshall ripped the ball off him.

The Browns scored a field goal and conceded a touchdown to leave the score at 14-10 entering halftime.

The Browns offense slowed down a lot in the second half as Manziel showed that he was only making his third ever start. The Browns first drive ended with a poor throw and interception before a couple of successive punts. On both sides of the ball, the Browns struggled with the run. Manziel began to get sloppy in the fourth quarter, fumbling on successive drives. The Jets started to run up the score a bit after benefiting from numerous short drives from turnovers.

Overall it was a disappointing loss for the Browns with plenty to take forward to Tennessee. There are some concerns though.

One of the main concerns I have is the offensive line which seemed to constantly be in trouble, whether it was with penalties or with not creating any lanes in the running game. This is supposed to be one of the best in the NFL and I expect them to improve but they won’t be happy with the way they played.

The secondary had issues too with Joe Haden not living up to his high standards. He seemed to be constantly over matched by Brandon Marshall who used his size and physicality to his advantage. Tashaun Gipson will also be disappointed to have dropped that interception.

I know some people were critical but I thought that Johnny Manziel and Jon De Filippo both had good games. Manziel hadn’t taken a snap in two weeks and was better than expected. He made a poor throw on the INT but I wouldn’t be too worried about the fumbles as he still won’t be fully at NFL speed after 3 games. We also saw signs of his new found attitude to preparation with him going through his reads rather than scrambling. De Filippo called a nice game with plenty of quick passes which helped Johnny avoid holding onto the ball for too long.

The Browns return to Cleveland next week to host Marcus Mariota and the Titans.