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Browns Impressive in Loss to Ravens

Read that headline again, “Browns Impressive in Loss to Ravens.” It makes it sound as if there is some sort of moral victory to be had here. I wanted to use that headline as a way to show how the Browns can no longer be perceived by the city and the fan base. No longer can it be acceptable to look at this team and have any sense of accomplishment after starting 0-3 simply because they are improving and playing close games.

Don’t get me wrong, Cleveland put together their best performance of the young season and it would have been enough to win each of the last two weeks. The problem, however, is that close isn’t good enough and it is the tight games that separate the teams that do belong from the ones that don’t. All in all though there were some important positives to take note of Sunday mixed in with all of the bad.

The biggest difference between this team in 2010 as compared to last year is undoubtedly the depth of the roster. The team has injuries all over the place and at key positions like running back, quarterback, and receiver, but despite them they were still able to fight with a top team for four quarters. In past seasons, those types of injuries would likely have crippled this team, so that is certainly a bright spot.

Another important take away from week three was the ability of the team to make adjustments at halftime to stay competitive. The first two weeks saw the Browns fall apart completely at the seams when the 3rd quarter began. This week they were able to stay effective on offense and even score a second touchdown, as miraculous of a feat as that is against the Ravens.

The defense also did a solid job of adjusting at halftime and was able to keep the Ravens off of the scoreboard in the 3rd quarter. However, when it came down to it in crunch time the Ravens offense simply proved to be too talented for the Browns defense to pin down.

The Browns also were able to succeed at holding onto the football with a turnover free game Sunday. Turnovers essentially decided the first two weeks for the Browns and it was nice to see the team respond. Ball security is something that will be key most weeks if the Browns are going to win more than a couple games in 2010 and it is nice to know the have the capacity to hold onto the pigskin.

Talking about turnovers it was nice to see that Peyton Hillis has recovered from his severe case of the dropsies. Hillis fumbled three times in the first two games, losing two of them, and was second behind the quarterback play in why the Browns were unable to get a W against the Buccaneers or the Chiefs. Hillis came back with a strong week three with a record setting performance against Baltimore rushing for 144 yards, the most by any Brown against the Ravens, ever. He also managed to catch seven passes for 36 yards. It pains me to say it, but it appears as if he has already proven to be more valuable to the Browns than the man he was traded for, Brady Quinn.

Despite all of these positives the Browns are still FAR from being a team that can compete, even with average NFL squads. I now believe that the depth of talent is there for the Browns, but it appears at times that they still have second tier players starting at key positions. Their unanimous top playmaker doesn’t even have a traditional offensive position and with just 15 career touchdowns it makes it hard to even classify Josh Cribbs as a bonafide playmaker.

To make matters worse I am not sure the Browns even have another offensive skills player that would start on a league average team. Ben Watson and Peyton Hillis are fine players, but otherwise there isn’t much to write home about skills wise for the Browns. At least the offensive line seems to be fairly stable, which is an equally important building block for a team.

In closing, it appears that the Browns have what it takes to play solid football, even against quality opponents. However, they don’t have the ability to outplay any team for four quarters. Part of that is the lack of talent and part of it seems to be the coaching. Despite my avid support for head coach Eric Mangini and his principles of discipline, it has become clear that he is not able to translate his ideas into viable results, as penalties and turnovers still plague this team.

Regardless of the coaching though, the Browns will not be able to win consistently until they have at least one game changing player on both sides of the ball. I think that both Joe Haden and T.J. Ward have the potential to turn into real playmakers by the end of the season, but offensively there is no one currently that fits the bill leaving a hole that needs serious consideration come January.

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